Rob Urie: Is It Fascism Yet?

Yves here. Rob Urie follows up on a recent post in which his use of the term “fascist Left” elicited a great deal of reader consternation. Rob today describes actions and policies in the US that are not hugely different from those of European fascism of the interwar and World War II period.

By Rob Urie, author of Zen Economics, artist, and musician who publishes The Journal of Belligerent Pontification on Substack

“Is fascism merely a dictatorial force in the service of capitalism? That may not be all it is, but that certainly is an important part of fascism‘s raison d’etre, the function Hitler himself kept referring to when he talked about saving the industrialists and bankers from Bolshevism.” Michael Parenti, Blackshirts and Reds.

The question of fascism in the US of A is both tedious and necessary because of the ways in which the term has been weaponized in recent years. It is tedious in that 99.8% or so of commenters using the term emerge from a particular hegemonic framework (liberal / idealist) that excludes relevant information regarding fascist practice and violence. This creates an ‘other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play’ gap in the Western narratives purporting to explain it. It also leaves behind the sense, as with mainstream accounts of the US proxy war in Ukraine, that the veracity of analyses is limited by the way in which the problems they purport to address are framed.

Because how this question of fascism is framed substantially determines the range of information that emerges from analysis, strong claims one way or another become a function of how questions are asked rather than simply revealing the truth of history. For instance, following from WWI, German anti-Semitism was fed through the conflation of ‘Jewishness’ with Bolshevism. The first to be interned in German concentration camps were German communists, not Jews as might be imagined today. A question worth asking then is why one group is considered ‘worthy victims’ while another is considered good riddance?

The ’American’ take on European fascism of the twentieth century has focused more on what are claimed to be historical breaks rather than continuities. The formerly Left conception of German fascism as racialized capitalist imperialism begs the question of which imperialism didn’t develop legitimating narratives that places their victims as victimizers? American slavers maintained that slavery elevated slaves by exposing them to ‘advanced’ culture to which slaves could aspire. Depending on which historian you choose, the concept of race either emerged from American slavery or informed it. Was European fascism then an historical break or a continuity?

In 1917, US President, ‘progressive’ Democrat, racist crank, and proto-fascist Woodrow Wilson created the anodyne sounding Committee on Public Information to sell WWI to the American people. The Committee later served as the model for the German fascists’ propaganda efforts. Wilson’s Progressive ‘science’ substantially informed fascist race ‘science.’ The American eugenics program informed the German fascist program to exterminate ‘undesirables.’ Wilson was still prosecuting the Indian Wars in the US when the German fascists came to power. And in 1919 Wilson launched the Palmer Raids that rounded up American dissidents and put them in concentration camps, then known as ‘prisons.’

The second industrial revolution in the US (1860 or thereabouts) was contemporaneous with the launch-in-earnest of the Indian Wars. Prior to industrialization, Federal plans had been to create side-by-side nations where the indigenous (‘tribes’ if you prefer) would rule themselves. However, industrialization led to the use of natural resources on a scale never before imagined. The US had many of the natural resources needed for industrialization within its borders. The ‘problem’ was that many of these resources were on land occupied by the indigenous. The Indian Wars were a form of internal imperialism, complete with rococo, race based, explanations of why these resources rightfully belonged to American industrialists.

Taken together, and based on multiple accounts including that of contemporary American liberal Adam Tooze in The Wages of Destruction, the German fascists wanted to recreate what the Americans had using the methods the Americans had used to create it. According to Tooze, the German fascists concluded that Germany lacked the quantity and variety of natural resources needed to fulfil their ambitions to follow the American model of industrialization internally, hence their plan to conquer Europe, and in particular, Russia, in order to take them. From a Marxist frame, the German fascists look like ordinary imperialists with a racialized component.

In 1917 Woodrow Wilson joined the Brits and French in sending troops, in Wilson’s case, the American Expeditionary Force, to ‘manage’ the Bolshevik Revolution as WWI became the first industrial war of attrition. As with the recent ‘surge’ in Ukraine, global elites bickered as citizen-soldiers were gratuitously placed in front of machine-gun fire to die. The class-divide, where wealthy elites made decisions and bank while citizen-soldiers were slaughtered on an industrial scale, led to the utter brutality of WWII. European fascism didn’t arise in a vacuum. And much of its bitterness emerged from the slaughter of WWI.

While American Jim Crow laws provided the model for German fascist race laws, American Progressive ‘race science,’ a/k/a scientific racism, provided the pseudo-scientific basis for the extermination of ‘undesirables.’ American eugenics laws based in Progressive science led to the involuntary sterilization of 70,000 poor women in the US. And again, the Indian Wars were still underway in the US when the German fascists began their ascent to power. Add in US imperialism, its ethos explicated below by former US General Smedley Butler, and German fascism appears to be more an historical continuity than a break.

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.(Former US General) Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket.

Anyone who imagines that the imperial subjects to whom (former US General) Smedley Butler refers were treated decently, as ‘free’ citizens of their respective nations, would be wrong. Referring to earlier imperial history, from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States,

“When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.” Howard Zinn

This all may seem to be ancient history. But that view requires evidence of an historical break rather than continuity. Following WWII thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of German fascists were recruited by the CIA and American industry to labor for the Americans. Klaus Barbie, the ‘Butcher of Lyon,’ helped the CIA torture and murder Che Guevara. Via the Cold War, German fascists essentially resumed their fascist project in league with the Americans. Former New York Times reporter, and seemingly decent fellow despite his employment history, Eric Lichtblau, has written extensively about the integration of German fascists into the American mainstream.

Interestingly, Lichtblau saves his most bitter recrimination for the aftermath of WWII. While the simple explanation is that it is the subject of his book, readers are encouraged to view Lichtblau’s talks on the internet (see here, here) for details and nuance. Lichtblau charges that US General George Patton was a vicious anti-Semite, in a manner common to Western imperialists.

September 15, 1945: Evidently the virus started by Morgenthau and Baruch of a Semitic revenge against all Germans is still working. … Harrison and his ilk believe that the Displaced Person is a human being, which he is not, and this applies particularly to the Jews, who are lower than animals. George Patton, diary entry.

Readers are invited to consider how this ties to view from the Biden administration, the CIA, and MI6, that the Russians in 2023 are stupid, dirty, people that any American could beat in a fight because ‘we’ are innately superior. Again, hold any view toward the US proxy war in Ukraine that you care to. What this racist precept illustrates is the persistence of imperialist logic with respect to the ‘deserving’ nature of those on the receiving end imperial ambitions.

As if on cue, Politico recently published an article entitled Fighting against the USSR didn’t necessarily make you a Nazi, arguing that even though the US was allied with Russia in WWII, it would have been logical for Americans to attack their ally, rather than ‘the enemy.’ Democrat Hillary Clinton called for Americans with whom she disagrees politically to be ‘re-educated,’ presumably in ‘re-education camps’ similar to those created by the American Progressives who kidnapped indigenous children to assimilate them into the broader culture. And the Canadian Parliament gave a standing ovation to a WWII-era Galician (Ukrainian) fascist who has been accused of war crimes.

The premise of the Politico article is a bit of induction, proceeding from the idea that wars are fought over ideology rather than material conditions. This ties to the post-2016 American liberal view that it is the beliefs of those who chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 that makes them dangerous, and not the meager politics they are able to craft. Author and activist Chris Hedges recently penned an article in which he articulated the fear that re-electing Donald Trump will result in an increase in political violence.

However, causes matter. That is why I have argued for more than a decade that unless American capitalism is resolved with something like a return to the New Deal, fascism would be the likely result. However, this formulation ignores how miserable American capitalism has been for Americans in good times. Counter to Hedges, whom I have the highest regard for, the liberal fear of political violence begs the question of where they have been for the last three centuries? Unless one buys the theory of American exceptionalism, what elevates Liberal violence above fascist violence?

A Tangent Before Tying This Together

With apologies for getting personal, my own story is relevant here. Seven years ago, my spouse and I rebuilt (as in did the work) an abandoned house in a poor and working class, majority Black (98%), neighborhood in the Northeastern US. We went to lengths to assure that we weren’t gentrifying— 90% of the surrounding houses are Section 8. When we arrived, mass shootings were common. For five of these seven years, conditions improved, and the violence abated. Beginning two years ago, the gunfire returned. Beginning six months ago, the murders returned. We are now regularly treated to running gun battles immediately in front of and behind our home.

Graph: Most Americans likely imagine that life expectancy is about the same for all of us, made variable by ‘lifestyle choices.’ In fact, the rich live about fifteen years longer than the poor in the US due to a combination of having nutritious food to eat, receiving adequate healthcare, including dental, and having lower levels of stress. The TED Talk fantasies about new lifesaving medical technologies provide cover for a healthcare system that has the worst outcomes in the developed world. Most Americans would be stunned at how little regulation is applied to medical devices. Many ordinary procedures have zero empirical research to support them. They are make -work programs for medical scamsters. Source:

Over the time that we have lived here, we have seen a generation grow from kids to teens and from teens to young adults. Now, take any sense you might have that their lives are any more or less valuable than those of you and yours or me and mine and toss it in the garbage where it belongs. The people are beautiful and complicated. The adult men share 99% of the views, call it a ‘class view,’ with their white counterparts. They want social prestige, decent employment, and to see their kids do well. The difference is, due to this region having been intentionally deindustrialized in the 1960s – 1970s, the kids face a black hole when it comes to what to do after High School.

While racism is usually called upon to explain the bleak futures these children face, a preponderance of the people keeping this city poor proudly, loudly, and repeatedly, call themselves anti-racists. Leaders of a nearby religious community recently set up an illegal SRO (single-room occupancy) in the house two down from ours where they placed fifteen special needs residents in a five-bedroom house with a single bathroom. The residents each paid $1,600 per month (15 X $1,600 = $24,000 per month) for the privilege. When rain poured through the ceiling and the toilet stopped flushing, the residents called the Code Office and were summarily evicted.

I make it a practice to speak with homeless people when they can be so-identified to learn their stories. I recently engaged a homeless man around thirty years old with a welder’s license, who lost his job, was evicted, and now lives in his car with his pregnant wife. Another friend sleeps in the cemetery during the summer and takes odd jobs when he can find them. He begged me for help finding full-time employment. But without a telephone or an address, or any realistic way of faking these to get him a job, there is little I can do. I recently had to talk another friend who was despondent because he couldn’t find a job out of killing himself. Three times over three months. He is a car and motorcycle mechanic.

The point is that the Liberal distinction between passive and active violence makes more sense to the well-to-do than to the poor. If the world doesn’t owe us a living, then why the persistence of class? Some people are born with a living provided while most aren’t. Those who aren’t face exponentially higher levels of explicit violence than those who are. The levels of implicit violence— hunger, homelessness, and the social exclusion that un- and under-employment cause, place the US in 2023 in a special category amongst ‘rich’ nations. We were dying needlessly by the thousands. Now we are dying needlessly by the millions.

While it is possible to racialize just about anything (my neighbors certainly do), there are rational economic explanations for almost all of the bad behavior I am writing about here. When a slumlord can buy a house for $75K and illegally rent it out for $24,000 per month, they earn a return of 32% per month on their initial ‘investment.’ And what precisely does the term ‘earn’ mean here? Once the house has been purchased, very little more is required of a slumlord than to collect the rent. To the extent that maintenance is required, it is the neighbors who do it or it doesn’t get done.

So, when my liberal friends speak of their fears of fascist violence, I don’t disagree with their concerns. But consider, poor people live fifteen years fewer than rich people in the US (graph above). Poor people tend to live in food deserts where nutritious food is unavailable. Many of my neighbors have been refused by doctors who won’t take their health insurance. Obamacare requires an address, telephone, computer, internet access, and spreadsheet skills to choose a policy on which premiums must be paid but coverage remains at the whim of insurers. What are inconveniences for those with resources are life and death struggles for the poor.

So, if this reads like NGO boilerplate for some scam to open rat farms in poor neighborhoods, you might have a point if it weren’t for the systematic nature of the problem. Having spent twenty-five years using math and statistics to perform economic research, the number of Americans dying from preventable illnesses, so-called ‘excess deaths,’ has been at genocide levels since the onset of the Great Recession. Use of the term ‘genocide’  here would be inflammatory if it had no basis. But it does. The large numbers of people dying aren’t random throughout the population. They are poor.

Graph: Life Expectancy at Birth in the most inclusive measure of expected longevity. From 1950 – 1980 life expectancy rose for both the benchmark (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, UK) and for the US. In the early-mid 1980s the US experienced a slower rise than the benchmark nations, representing increasing relative ‘excess  deaths’ in the US. Passage of the ACA (Affordable Care Act), known colloquially as Obamacare, did nothing to reverse this trend, and is correlated with the healthcare system meltdown that saw four – six million excess deaths before the Covid-19 pandemic even hit. To save on suspense, it is overwhelmingly poor people who are dying. Source:

By grossing the excess death rate up for the size of the US population, and depending on the starting point, I find four to six million excess deaths in the US from the onset of the Great Recession to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. That is, before Covid-19 struck in 2020, four to six million Americans died from preventable illnesses who wouldn’t have if they lived in countries with a functioning healthcare system. These would be the people who live in food deserts without employment prospects who get sucked into the drug trade where violence is rife.

The Liberal contention that this sort of violence may be regrettable, but it isn’t political, depends on the dubious distinction between economic and political power. But the systematic nature of the violence suggests otherwise. Bill Clinton and Joe Biden passed the 1994 Crime Bill that increased mandatory prison sentences while it made appeals for wrongful convictions virtually impossible to win. Joe Biden claimed to have written the Patriot Act, which ended restraints on police behavior toward the population. These aren’t considered to be failures by Liberals; they are considered to be successes. Just ask Hillary.

Likewise, the problems in my neighborhood aren’t evidence of neoliberal failure, they are evidence of neoliberal success. American oligarchs put their servants in government to the task of deindustrializing the nation, and they did so. Why? To break the back of organized labor as they avoided environmental regulations and the payment of taxes. Up until about two weeks ago the news had it that Americans are living in the greatest economic boom in modern history. While my homeless friends may beg to differ, no one is asking their opinion.

This is to write that the mass social misery in evidence in the US has bypassed the class that is creating it. The rich are doing better than they have since the 1920s. What is it that would make the current state of the nation an accident, or somehow regrettable, to the American ruling class? Joe Biden had an opportunity to do the right thing following his election in 2020, and he chose not to. If Biden really wanted to enact his ‘agenda,’ why have Democrats been systematically replacing those who might support it with Right-wing and Blue Dog Democrats for the last thirty years?

‘Fascists’ didn’t create, pass, and enact the 1994 Crime Bill, Liberal Democrats did. ‘Fascists’ didn’t create the Patriot Act (according to Biden), Liberal Democrats did. Donald Trump found himself on the wrong side of the Democrat’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine— he only played a minor part in the slaughter of 450,000 Ukrainian soldiers by agreeing to send American-made weapons there. Trump was derided for his inadequate Covid pandemic response until Biden & Co. assumed his crony capitalist / libertarian logic to create the worst response in the rich world.

Again, these aren’t Liberal failures, they are Liberal successes in the sense that they are the outcomes that American Liberals and their sponsors legislated to make happen. Four to six million excess deaths before the Covid pandemic hit, caused by the neoliberal healthcare system that Liberal Democrats created. Twelve and one-half million citizens likely to be permanently disabled by Long Covid due to the Biden administration’s Covid policies. If Liberals want to claim criminal stupidity, okay. That has been my theory for a long time.

My vote in 2024 will either go to Cornel West or I stay home. But even Dr. West relies on the Liberal discourse around fascism to pose it as a neo-Confederate movement rather than as capitalism backed by military force (a/k/a imperialism). As far as political violence goes, Gaza is being flattened using American-made weapons as this is being written. The Biden administration is asking Congress for another $100 billion for Ukraine so that the US can take a breather and reorganize before attacking Russia again. The Russians most certainly know this, so the risk of the American Liberals launching WWIII will remain.

I share the fear of political violence emerging from a second Trump administration, but what part of the prior seven pages didn’t you read? The bodies are piling up in my neighborhood right now. The Liberal city government has followed the national Democrat’s model by firing one-third of the fire department so the City Manager could give himself a fat raise. Since then, the city government has ended the dissemination of public information regarding the shootings, apparently to protect investors like the kind souls (a/k/a slumlords) running the SRO mentioned above.

The way to deal with Mr. Trump and his constituents was to govern effectively so as to beat him at the polls. I have said and written this consistently regarding the generic risk of fascism since the onset of the Great Recession. The choice of the Democrats to not govern effectively only adds to the risk of fascist violence by being fascist violence. The difference between the Weimar relationship with the German fascists and the Liberal Democrats’ relationship with Donald Trump and his supporters is that the latter aren’t political competitors except in the most anodyne of senses. In 2023, the Democrats are more explicitly capitalist, and imperialist, than the so-called political Right in the US.

What a mess. God help us all.

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  1. John R Moffett

    This is an excellent analysis of our sad state of affairs. There is no more telling situation how we have devolved into a near fascistic state than the fact that the upcoming election might involve two of the most despised candidates of my lifetime who will be running against each other for the second time. If the people don’t get any real say in who the nominees are, then there really aren’t elections, there are spectacles with bad actors and bad choices. There is no democracy.

    1. Weil

      There can be no democracy under capitalism and there never was.

      If you have no democracy at the workplace where one spends one third or more of their lives, then how can you have democracy in the larger social socety?

      Read Hitler’s 1932 speech from Dusseldorf and you will see why.

      This is the speech that made him Chancellor and took 2 and one half hours.

      Dusseldorf Speech

  2. GramSci

    Thank you, Rob!

    «If Liberals want to claim criminal stupidity, okay. That has been my theory for a long time.»

    ‘Criminal indifference’, I would say.

    1. Wright

      Feeling charitable, I’d describe the domestic political trend as stochastic lunacy sprinkled with opportunistic ignorance. Those seem baked into the structure with the lack of longer term awareness. Short term reactive band-aids and no concept of an endgame almost sound like some bizarre cargo cult.

      One thing that the modern world no longer needs is self-anointed public intellectuals. They boast, dissemble and spin while telling the rest that they are deplorable. Hillary Clinton is only one of those who needs to sit down and STFU.

  3. Vicky Cookies

    Thanks, Rob, for somehow summoning the patience required to explain the realities of poverty in such eloquence and with such clarity. Class society, with all the violence and more subtle repression which it requires, is only normal and acceptable to those who do not have to worry for their lives. The responses to your previous piece which inspired your current one are illustrative of the disconnect between PMC educated types, for whom these subjects are intellectual exercises, and the rest of us. Whatever name is needed to spur movement by elite-minded liberals to at least mitigate their slow genocide of the poor, I’m in favor of using. You can call it ‘fascism’, or you can call it ‘birthday cake’; it doesn’t matter. Thank you also for your personal reflections; from my own experience, when there are gunfights on your street daily, you aren’t thinking about how much worse life would be under ‘fascism’ (personally, I think the old R. Palme Dutt definition still works fine: capitalism without the unions, which, by union density, would make the U.S. 90% fascist).

  4. John Steinbach

    Just guessing the paucity of comments here means that the esteemed commentariat agrees with Rob’s analysis of the true nature of the “left” Fascist threat.

    I’ve been arguing with actual leftist friends for years that the threat of Fascism is greater from Neo-liberal authoritarianism that from reactionary populists. Bertram Gross wrote a similar analysis in his book “Friendly Fascism” 50 years ago or more. IIRC, he argued that Fascism would take over here in the U.S. without the citizens being aware.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Same here. Friend of mine who never owned a gun before and knows little about them bought a firearm recently for protection, fearing “white supremacists” or some other right wing rioters rampaging through his neighborhood. I have been telling him that if things do go pear shaped, to make sure he’s shooting at the right fascists, since they are probably not the people he thinks they are.

    2. Jams O'SDonnell

      You repeat the usual canard that US Liberalism is part of the ‘left’. It is not. ‘Liberalism’ and the so-called ‘Democratic’ Party are not on the left. Liberals are enthusiastic proponents of capitalism. Any ‘leftist’ movement which does not have at its heart the demolition of the capitalist system, is merely a convenient proxy for use when the main capitalist parties have temporarily outworn their welcome, and so not actually part of the left (e.g. the UK ‘Labour’ Party). In the ‘real’ world, (i.e. the world not including the USA), politics can very often be formulated as a triangle, with ‘the left’, liberalism and conservatism at each apex. The confusion of ‘left’ and ‘liberal’ is convenient for the ‘right’ in the US, in that they can vilify both their opponents at once using the same epithets, but such confusion only leads to a similarly confused analysis of events and is helpful to no-one.

      1. hemeantwell

        “The confusion of ‘left’ and ‘liberal’ is convenient for the ‘right’ in the US”
        Agree strongly. Why take up the reductionist conceptual framework of hacks like Jonah Goldberg? Why not take into account other writings on fascism, especially Paxton’s work, to set up a more thorough description of fascism and set up comparisons? And it might even be worthwhile to dust off Marx’s 18th Brumaire in order to get a sense of how a dangerous Party of Order can operate without the institutional innovations and sustained popular mobilizations that Paxton argues are part of fascism proper.

  5. chris

    Thank you, Rob.

    I especially like the mention of passive vs. active violence in your discussion. I’ve been struggling to come up with a useful way to explain what I see in cities and among the poor. I’ve had a difficult time explaining why “learn to code” is a rich person’s way of saying “your money or your life”. Passive vs. Active violence nails that down nicely.

    What I don’t see from anything you said is a way out. I, too, will be voting for Dr. West or no one at all for president. But even he is bad on Ukraine and topics like what to do about Trump. Who is there to help lead us out of this mess?

    Case in point, I spent the weekend with family and the topic of politics came up. After they told me that we should take away ICE vehicles from people because they’re polluting the environment, and that people should only be allowed to purchase electric vehicles, and that we should further limit the ability of anyone to own guns, and that we should monitor people’s speech online even more, and that we should send more aid to Ukraine without any vote for war, and that the President should rely on executive orders more and stop asking Congress to do its job, they said they’re really concerned about Trump and his allies because they don’t believe in democracy. My family members aren’t bad people. But they know they’re right and they know their votes should count for more than others. Short of breaking up the US how do we solve this problem?

    1. britzklieg

      The problem is unsolvable. We are screwed, have been for a long time and yet most still seem unaware of the fact. Cheap flat screens, ear buds and mandatory, hyper-expensive “smart” phones, which deliver an utterly crapified culture to distract from the quite observable plunge into hell we’ve suffered through for half a century, have impoverished the imagination, solidified the class divide of rich and poor and sealed our collective fate. The younger generations which are rising to power have been denied the tools of reason and rational argument, leaving us with idpol, safe spaces and celebrations for false, feel good fairy tales like “Hamilton” and “Black Panther.” My escape was music and marijuana and I won’t deny it, but now, retired and off the sauce, there’s little left to do but weep for what comes after.

      Fukuyama said history was ended. No. History and the paramount need to understand it have been erased entirely. The possibility for revolution and a better future have been disappeared. There is no way out.

      ..and on that bright note…

    2. lyman alpha blob

      You talk about breaking up the US as if that were a bad thing ;)

      There was a front page article in Harper’s years ago now about why breaking up the US into five smaller nations wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Unfortunately I don’t remember the details and my efforts to digitally search for it over the years have come up empty. I may need to go up to the attic and fish out the magazine one of these days.

    3. Jams O'Donnell

      Breaking up the USA is arguably one of the most effective ways of putting an end to the current US Empire. The way things are looking with regard to US infrastructure, education, racial politics, Republican v. Democratic faction fighting, military recruitment and military-industrial competence mean it might also be the most likely. It’s what I would like to see, with the US Navy being allocated to the landlocked central country. However, there is a longish road to go yet, and I’m not holding my breath.

      1. Aaron

        It won’t do it. All breaking up the US will do, pursued by itself, is make it easier for each individual state to be subsumed under hegemony. We don’t need five new governments, we need proletarian control over the one we’ve got.

  6. Carolinian

    While the first half of this essay is chapter and verse to many of us I’d say the discussion of the Indian wars–which had been going on from the very beginning of our history, not since 1860–is dubious in the extreme. In fact the natives were driven off their land by agricultural interests and a second wave of European colonization, making it more of the same in the mid 19th. The mineral extraction was still taking place back east. The railroads very much played a part in this and were a key feature of capitalism in that era, but the money motive, as in so much of American history, was about population growth and real estate–rentiers out to rent rather than extractors out to extract.

    As for fascism, some of us can remember when a more clear minded left routinely applied the epithet to militarists and and anti-communists and imperialists of the Vietnam era. At least the first Cold War was about something–capitalism versus a flawed version of socialism. Post Powell memo the empire struck back and turned everything around. The flower children became the Me Decade and young people, some of them anyway, decided Reagan was cool. We are still in that second era now that the “left” have found Trump to be the boogie man. The new cold war by contrast is all about the PR.

    1. Aaron

      Even “flawed version of socialism” is a product of Cold War propaganda. Sober analysis of life under the Soviet Union, in comparison to life in capitalist countries (particularly the US), produces a comparison that sheds the USSR in a pretty favorable light, in my opinion, despite the flaws it did have (which were doubtless there, albeit fewer and of much less “inhuman character” than our propagandized society wants us to believe). More importantly, it showed a society trying to improve itself for its people, which is what socialism is about: Proletarian control over the state to push it toward communism, the society where neither a state nor class has need to exist. Socialism is never not “flawed” in some way, because socialism itself is part of the process by which government, over time, rids itself of the contradictions inherent to class society. “Over time” implies that there is a middle stage where that hasn’t happened yet, where those contradictions still exist and drive misery within society. The measure of alternatives to capitalism should never be whether they are perfect, but where their trajectory is going. China’s successes in this regard should be illuminating, especially as it’s another country where reporting exists to minimize the vast good that state has done while maximizing our perception of its flaws.

      1. undercurrent

        I agree strongly with your points, and wonder how overwhelming anti-Soviet propaganda was, and remains, in this country. I think that Rob made mention of western anti-Soviet forces that militarily opposed the USSR shortly after its creation. This opposition was a physical testament of capitalism’s virulent resistance to socialism, and probably had a great, and detrimental, influence on the development of the Soviet state: it had to take shape in the very real face of military opposition. Depressing to think now, that the creation of a new way of thinking,,and being, was sabotaged from its start. The Soviet man, imbued with a selfless sense of sacrifice for the collective good, would be worlds removed from the ever greedy, trinket oriented man that capitalism continues to produce in its awful abundance.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    Rob, you may not think of folks within the party as allies, but I’m very glad to hear voices like yours (please tell me you’re not a secret fan of the 1619 Project!). I just hope you know that you have allies within the Democrat party. Powerless allies, but that can change, said the guy who left the Democrats in 2016 but keeps hovering around the periphery looking for an opening.

  8. steven t johnson

    Didn’t read the other Urie article as I’m not terribly impressed with Urie’s work in Counterpunch. Glanced at it and quickly saw stuff like “Bourgeois class interest in 1967 was to oppose the Vietnam War because of the risk of being drafted.” According to Urie, the bourgeoisie doesn’t have much power since the US continued the war for years after Urie’s imaginary version of the bourgeois class turned against it. Not sure who Urie thinks is the ruling class, though reading between the lines I see a great deal of hatred and contempt for the larger part of humanity in the US, along with a high verbal regard for the worthy oppressed. Personally I’m convinced that things like fragging—which was not bourgeois Left fascist resistance no matter what Urie says—was far more influential in leading to an all-volunteer army. I think Urie is more or less mythologizing, not analyzing. This is just one example, but it’s basically catching him in one honking big lie, I think. And the burden of proof is on those who would have us take Urie seriously.

    As near as I can make out, Urie is just another Trumper lying like a dog. The BS about how Trump “only” sent weapons to Ukraine is like excusing JFK’s beginning the Vietnam War on the grounds he “only” sent some advisors etc. and this was nothing, nothing like LBJ’s invasion. Trump instantly politicized Covid for political gain, key to Covid getting loose in the US, but Trump gets excused by Urie as merely “inadequate.” What a wretched, wretched performance!

    Trying to find something both coherent and real world, without such flights of fancy, is a little difficult. As near as I can tell, this is it: “But even Dr. West relies on the Liberal discourse around fascism to pose it as a neo-Confederate movement rather than as capitalism backed by military force (a/k/a imperialism).” Capitalism has always been backed by military force, just as slavery was, and just as feudalism was. From the days when religious reformers were taking Church lands to sell on the market (key to the rise of capitalism beyond a handful of cities) capitalism has always relied on military force. Urie has no sensible thoughts at all. The notion of the fascist Left so far as I can tell is a mlld variation on Trump’s demented claim the Democrats are socialists, Marxists, Communists conflated with the old nonsense about how fascisms and socialism are twins.

    I would offer a possible sensible approach to what fascism is and whether (bourgeois) democracy is worth defending—Urie’s position by the way, under all the posturing, is, it is not—-but a serious discussion of drivel is pointless.

    1. Cat Burglar

      Where is the evidence that Urie — despite his avowal in comments that he is a Marxist — is a “lying Trumper?” You may differ with his views on Trump, but why is imputed allegiance to an election candidate the only political standard of judgement here? Does everything relate to being either a Democrat or Republican?

    2. ThirtyOne

      “excusing JFK’s beginning the Vietnam War on the grounds he “only” sent some advisors etc. and this was nothing, nothing like LBJ’s invasion.”

      Selverstone also tries to repeat a Chomskyite strophe which I thought was long ago obsolete. That somehow Kennedy’s withdrawal plan was based on the course of the war. (p. 128) Way back in 1997, the release of hundreds of pages of documents more or less put an end to that maneuver. (See Probe Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 19-21) As I wrote back then, after reading these documents, everyone in the loop seemed aware that Kennedy would begin his pullout in December of 1963 and end it at the end of 1965. Even General Earle Wheeler observed that any proposal for overt action invited a negative presidential decision. And the specific transition plans are laid out in black and white.

      As James Galbraith and Howard Jones wrote, Kennedy’s withdrawal was unconditional and did not rely on victory. (Boston Review, “Exit Strategy” September 1, 2003) Newman made this issue deader than a doornail when he listened to McNamara’s debrief from the Pentagon. McNamara said that once the training period was over, he and Kennedy had decided the effort was complete. They could not fight the war for Saigon. They were leaving. (Vietnam: The Early Decisions, edited by Lloyd C Gardner and Ted GIttinger, pp. 166-67)

      1. steven t johnson

        My opinions on these matters were formed partly by my observations as I came of age in the Sixties. So reference to obscure publications from a mere twenty years ago aren’t going to have quite the impact you expect.

        But even in the material you quote, the claim Kennedy wasn’t going to fight the war for Saigon clearly accepts that the US was then at war. Kennedy started US involvement in the war, which is what I said. My implication this was part of the process leading up to LBJ’s massive intervention I suppose can be argued about. But it’s far more reasonable than “obsolete.” That is particularly true of a two-year withdrawal plan, designed to culminate in the second term *at best.* A plan that is designed to be carried out by another president, like Trump’s “withdrawal” from Afghanistan, is of uncertain reality.

        And this is even truer when one asks oneself why, if Kennedy was determined to withdraw and the course of events supposedly therefore didn’t matter: Why the Diem coup? On the face of it, merely troubling to remove Diem powerfully suggests the course of event did matter to what plans were carried out.

        Respectfully as I can be, I yet remain unconvinced that this sentence makes Urie’s “analysis” sound, or my conclusion he’s just another Trumper isn’t.

        1. Cat Burglar

          Your arguments are in the style of Media Matters.

          Finding Urie’s explanation of the end of the draft inadequate does not establish him as deliberately telling a falsity. If it did, your own vague (“far more influential” — there’s some precision for you) assertion would make you look like a liar, too. There were probably a lot of reasons why the draft ended; the military industrial complex version is here, and includes both your and Urie’s reasons. And one of the best things about shifting the burden of evidence to your opponent is that you don’t have to provide any yourself!

          The status of a statement like, “Urie is a Trumper lying like a dog,” is about equal to “steven t johnson is a paid flunky for the Democrat propaganda contractor, Media Matters.” Both are groundless. Why direct the discussion away from the substance of the disagreement on Urie’s position on fascism? Give us a clear version of your position!

    3. square coats

      I’m not sure where you’re getting any ideas of “worthy oppressed” from Urie’s writing, seems like quite the opposite to me.

      1. steven t johnson

        Well, Urie did seem to me to be in favor of the homeless and the unemployed, but I guess you’re technically right, he didn’t have any positive comments to make about them. But then he says nothing positive about anyone except, implicitly, “us.” I’m not sure who they are. So my apologies are being…excessively charitable?

    4. Rob Urie

      There are approximately 300 pieces of mine on Counterpunch. To which are you referring? The one in which I stated that I have never voted for a Republican, or the other 299 written within a Marxist frame?

      Telling other people what their politics ‘really’ are signifies that you either have the power to define truth, or that you really, really, wish that you did.

      I invite you to leave your chair and have this discussion with the people whose politics and lives you claim to know. A revelation is guaranteed.

    5. Rob Urie

      I was active in the antiwar movement from the sixth grade or thereabouts. The Vietnam War ended three days after my eighteenth birthday, when I would have been eligible for the draft, which by that time was a lottery.

      Had I been drafted, the choice was prison or exile in Canada. With no guidance from others or resources.

      I befriended the returning troops, who were in many cases the older brothers and fathers of friends of mine.

      We spoke for hours about their tours.

      Additionally, I read the war politics religiously, including Chomsky’s American Power and the New Mandarins, Fire in the Lake, and whatever else was around.

      The premise that the bourgeois of the time had the power of the PMC is flawed in two ways.In the first, income distribution was much flatter closer to the New Deal.

      In the second, Eisenhower’s MIC included most of the large industrial enterprises in the US. In a quote disappeared from the internet, LBJ said that he couldn’t end the war ‘because his friends were making too much money.’

      He was referring to industrialists, not bond traders.

      So yes, I argue that the bourgeois opposed the war because they were at risk of being drafted because they lacked the power to end it.

      1. Format

        One place that quote by LBJ can be found is in the introduction of William F. Pepper’s book The Plot to Kill King.

  9. David in Friday Harbor

    Paucity of comments may be due to a moderation backlog!

    Our one-party/two-faction system of repression and extraction is still best described by Sheldon Wolin’s construct of Inverted Totalitarianism. Good explication here of how Nazism was simply a German extrapolation of Wilsonian Democratic Party principles.

    Not convinced by Dr. West. I hear too much of the internal politics of the University-Industrial Complex in his pronouncements. Likely to sit the next one out, as even registering a protest vote is not going to break the totalitarian hegemony of the uni-party.

    1. JonnyJames

      I said something similar regarding Wolin’s concept. (the late George Carlin also explained this in his own unique way)

      Dr. West has almost zero chance anyway, as Elections Inc. requires 10s of millions to buy ads, PR, marketing, mass media coverage, etc. And he’s not going to get media saturation coverage for free like DT or JB.

      1. Acacia

        True, Dr. West may have “almost zero chance anyway, as Elections Inc. requires …” but that’s not the reason to vote for, say, a duopoly-annointed candidate instead.

        He’s not in this for politics-as-team-sport.

        1. Kilgore Trout

          What might finally get the attention of our corrupt elites would be the day most Americans stay home on election day, because they realize that voting makes no difference to the liberal authoritarians and their counterpart, populist nationalists. Perhaps the last time voting in the US made a difference was when we elected and re-elected FDR 90 years ago.

    2. Cat Burglar

      Likely I will vote for West because it seems like an effective way to create a political management problem for the national Dems — get a big enough group of left voters, and they will have to give them something. Since their shtick is to service the donor class but look enough like the party of the people to keep the lid on the popular pot, you have to boil over to get any action.

      I would consider not voting, but voting for the “wrong” socialist candidate in 2016 caused more trouble for our handlers, so it seemed more effective. It also created a public forum where like-minded people could be visible to each other on a society-wide basis, and a greater possibility of really organizing for power. It isn’t that voting for president is the most important political act you can do, but it is one lever you can grasp, so I do it.

  10. Patrick Lynch

    I think Mr. Urie’s follow up to his earlier article is spot on in every way. It fills me with despair about who I would vote for to try and make some effort towards fixing the mess we’re in now. It also reminds me of all the times I got into arguments with people who are still Democrats about the reality of endless lesser of two evil voting.

    The life expectancy chart was sadly very interesting. I couldn’t help noticing that when the American health care system was beginning to meltdown was exactly in that period when I was a student at a work college. The college required us to pay 50 dollars for “health insurance” which only covered things up to 50 dollars and everything was over 50 dollars. The utter uselessness of it did not escape our notice. The student body was all there because we all came from poverty so paying 50 dollars for nothing really rankled.

    The same period was also during a recession very keenly felt in the area where I lived. My then wife and I after she graduated moved to the nearest large city. It didn’t take long while we lived there to see the seeds being planted for everything that is seriously wrong with the place today. I definitely agree that when poverty increases, housing and access to the medical industrial complex is massively unaffordable and that wages for the majority of people can’t keep up with it then neoliberalism is having a great day and is basking in its PMC success. I don’t live in that city anymore, but if you’re a PMC, it’s close to heaven.

  11. JonnyJames

    I largely agree with Mr. Urie’s analysis, and the facts are clear, I just have quibbles about terminology again.

    If so-called liberals in Congress consistently support legislation and policy that are right-wing, authoritarian, they cannot be labeled as “liberal” anymore. Both the D and R factions support right-wing authoritarian policies, the only major differences are the emotionally-divisive cultural issues and cheap rhetoric.

    A neoliberal is an economics term that describes an advocate of “free trade”, privatization and limited government. So both the R and D faction are economically neoliberal. (anti-labor, pro-oligarchy) (and polsci textbooks) use two-dimensional political spectrum based on a wide variety of policy preferences. Both the D and R factions are firmly right-wing authoritarian. There is no meaningful choice. As Jimmy Carter stated “the US is an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” and Chris Hedges: “there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.

    Chris Hedges has written a lot about American-style neo-fascism and his book Death of the Liberal Class and others, talks about a lot of what Mr. Urie writes about.

    Crudely speaking, fascism, or neo-fascism, is a flavor of nationalistic, far right, hardcore authoritarianism where state power directs economic policy. Here we have what Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism” (Democracy Inc. 2008) where the oligarchy controls the state, not the other way round.

    So, there is no left, no libertarians, only “fascists” (meaning: nationalist, imperialist, warmongering, anti-labor, anti-liberty, right-wing authoritarian) This time the oligarchy is in charge, and the politicians are merely their representatives. Democracy Inc. is basically a profitable PR stunt.

  12. orlbucfan

    I have considered my country a neo-fascist police state loaded with dumbos for years. Mix in all the self-deluded organized religious types, and voila, 2023 America. I’m a liberal Futurist. $hillary Clinton is no liberal; how about calling her neo-fascist? That’s a lot more accurate.

  13. John k

    I guess I don’t understand fascism. I’ve always thought fascism is the corporate takeover of the state with the military used to enforce corporate control of foreign states and police used to enforce corporate control domestically. Isn’t that what we have here?

  14. NotThePilot

    I don’t disagree with anything Rob wrote here about the current system (capitalism, imperialism, sozialer Mord, it checks all the boxes). I didn’t comment in the last article, and I don’t want to get bogged down in the whole label argument either.

    But the one thing I would toss out is that we’re still possibly leaving out a central part of what fascism is: aesthetics. I know fascism is a protean thing and there’s no single accepted definition, but the more I’ve read about these things, I think Walter Benjamin’s take on it gets to the heart of things. Wyndham Lewis, who was all over the place politically, including a few misguided, extra-ornery years as a Hitler stan in the early 30s, would pretty much say the same. And don’t forget that Mussolini was bracketed by Marinetti the Futurist and Ezra Pound.

    So when well-off Americans wall themselves off in their white-collar jobs and Netflix shows, while the suffering-machine rumbles on, it may be cruel, nihilistic, and ultimately self-destructive… but I don’t know if they’re anymore fascist than Marie Antoinette was. When people actively support a bloodbath in Ukraine because they’re hopped up on Marvel films though, or cheer Hillary Clinton destroying Libya because she’s such a girl-boss, now that’s fascism.

    Ultimately though, I think it’s important to remember because it leads to actual strategies to push back, and not just preachy, badly-politicized art. And that’s the only reason I disagree with this desire to focus on hypocritical liberals & progressives as a “fascist left.” It distracts from the part of the left (arguably all the way back to Saint-Simon and Heine) that has been continually talking about the need for a self-aware & subversive yet open-minded, big-hearted culture.

    And if you want an example of how that can work, just look at the US military’s current recruiting problems, which throws a bigger wrench in US imperialism than anyone running in the next election could. You’ll hear lots of reasons in polls for it too, but it’s hard not to notice the overlap with so many Zoomers, even ones that aren’t consciously very political, instinctively culture-jamming all the things, especially government outreach (“eww, no, that last war was so cheugy & cringe”). Like the rest of us, the kids are definitely not alright, but to paraphrase Kafka, they too have their weapons.

    1. Acacia

      Interesting point about Benjamin’s statement w.r.t. fascism, which is worth repeating at greater length (from the Epilogue of his essay on the artwork):

      Fascism attempts to organize the newly proletarianized masses while leaving intact the property relations which they strive to abolish. It sees its salvation in granting expression to the masses — but on no account granting them rights. The masses have a right to changed property relations; fascism seeks to give them expression in keeping these relations unchanged. The logical outcome of fascism is an aestheticizing of political life. The violation of the masses, whom fascism, with its Führer cult, forces to their knees, has its counterpart in the violation of an apparatus which is pressed into serving the production of ritual values.

      All efforts to aestheticize politics culminate in one point. That one point is war. War, and only war, makes it possible to set a goal for mass movements on the grandest scale while preserving traditional property relations. That is how the situation presents itself in political terms. […] “Fiat ars — pereat mundus,” says fascism, expecting from war, as Marinetti admits, the artistic gratification of a sense perception altered by technology. This is evidently the consummation of l’art pour l’art. Humankind, which once, in Homer, was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, has now become one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached the point where it can experience its own annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure. Such is the aestheticizing of politics, as practiced by fascism. Communism replies by politicizing art.

      There is a lot to unpack here, but drawing attention only to one passage, I wonder if we can point at some current features of social media like YouTube as a contemporary example of giving the populace “expression” whilst keeping property relations unchanged. Benjamin’s use of the word “apparatus” here first means the movie camera (this is how he uses the word elsewhere in his essay), but I gather he doesn’t just say “camera” because he wants us to also think about the relations of production that govern a larger system of creating and circulating the moving image, which today roughly means visual media (either social or mass).

      Getting back to Rob Urie’s argument, I was one of those NC readers who expressed concern over his use of “left” vs. “liberal” in the previous article, but this article is much clearer and, I feel, expresses Rob’s point even more forcefully, e.g.:

      But even Dr. West relies on the Liberal discourse around fascism to pose it as a neo-Confederate movement rather than as capitalism backed by military force (a/k/a imperialism).

      This is very apparent in Dr. West’s discourse, though maybe it’s what works for a certain audience. Anecdotally, this is one of the disconnects I see with my PMC friends, who generally speak of some incipient “fascism” in the US as a kind of retrograde neo-Confederate movement — of Trump as pied piper of the Proud Boys, threatening “our democracy” on a future 1/6 —, as opposed to a broader, more systemic force that works through the form of a “markets über alles” logic that has spread like a cancer through society.

      Thank you, Rob, for a thought-provoking article.

  15. Susan the other

    Yes, it is fascism. By surveillance alone. Imo the flavor of fascism we are dealing with is implosion as opposed to the 20th century’s explosion of free marketeering. We are making a transition out of free market fascism into sustainability fascism. Who knows? This new turn could, theoretically, produce widespread equality and eco socialism. I doubt the robber billionaires will be thrown in jail. More likely they will focus their extreme competition on giving back. I hope it doesn’t go down in history as the age of philanthropy because fixing what you have ruthlessly destroyed needs a different word. The age of contrition? We need a new profession here, something along the lines of the court jestor. Lots of them. Because the Internet is here to stay and we are all looking for ways and means to actually make it all work. Without nuclear bombs. And it is important to make fun of the bullshit. Just think Hilary.

  16. Oh

    Thank you Rob for this excellent piece. Thank you Yves for posting this.
    America has always been a capitalistic country. When the Bolshevik toppled Stalin, Big Business here mounted an all out effort to go after anything that they saw as communist. Unions were the first victims and this anti red movement was stoked by Big Business that was mostly backed by the super rich right wingers who were able to tap into the Defense-Industrial-Complex dollars for their personal gain. Massacre of Native-American tribes and looting of their resources was a prelude to looting resources in the US as well as abroad. Most American inventions were paid for by Govt. dollars through Defense “contracts” and were turned into profit for the rich. This still continues with big firms in Defense, Silicon Valley, Pharma, Healthcare, etc. etc. The elections in this country are a sham with stooges from the Uniparty taking turns as prostitutes for the shadow govt. run by the rich. I don’t expect anything to change in my lifetime. Money is “free speech and corporations are “people”. We’re truly family blogged.

  17. redleg

    A big part of the fog in this discussion is the equation of “liberal” and “left”. Most Democrats and Republicans don’t see a difference, but the reality is that there’s a wise chasm, if not an ocean, between liberals and the actual left.
    Republicans/libertarians sit on the right-hand end of the seesaw, and the liberals/Democrats try to move the right side off the ground by pushing on the middle with unsurprising results. The best case is that after Herculean effort the seesaw balances evenly. There’s never any Herculean effort, but they sure love to talk like they’ve done exactly that-because it takes nearly infinite resources pushing on the middle to move the right seat a millimeter. Meanwhile there is effectively no-one sitting in the left-hand seat. The seesaw will never move until that left-hand seat is occupied.

  18. Henry Moon Pie

    “However, industrialization led to the use of natural resources on a scale never before imagined. The US had many of the natural resources needed for industrialization within its borders. The ‘problem’ was that many of these resources were on land occupied by the indigenous. The Indian Wars were a form of internal imperialism, complete with rococo, race based, explanations of why these resources rightfully belonged to American industrialists.”

    This brought to mind Lisi Krall’s argument that humans have created a superorganism whose drive to feed itself has turned into humanity’s master. She traces it back to the surpluses created by agriculture, which I find more plausible than Murray Bookchin’s blaming it all on the shamans.

    Seems we live in similar places. We rehabbed a multi-family house on the east side of Cleveland. The neighborhood is more diverse–a few of the old Eastern Europeans, Koreans, Chinese, Hondurans and African Americans–but poor with lots of crime. We’re also the neighborhood where all the halfway houses and drug rehabs operations are. I’d concur about the change in crime rate since Covid, but in Cleveland, I think it really dates back to the reaction to two especially egregious police killings and the Federal consent decree which angered the police union.

  19. J. X. Rodriguez

    I don’t see the point of defining and describing fascism if you’re not going to do anything about it.

    1. Acacia

      Well, at this point, USians are not even remotely on the same page about what “it” is.

      Given that’s where we seem to be at, working on a “rectification of names” is doing something about it.

  20. Rob Urie

    Thank you for the thoughtful comments.

    To the issue of Liberalism versus the ‘real’ Left, in the US Liberals hold power while ‘the Left’ holds none.

    What then is the nature of the distinction being made?

    It is people with ideas for how to govern (the Left) versus people with the power to do so (Liberals).

    Moreover, if you ask people outside of major cities, Joe Biden and the Democrats are ‘the Left.’

    By-and-large ‘the Left” votes for Democrats.

    This doesn’t mean just in 2020. For all of my adult life the American Left has voted for Democrats.

    The Democrats laugh about this in public. Their apparently correct theory is that ‘the Left’ has nowhere else to go.

    The point: I believe that I threaded the needle in this regard by re-attaching neo-liberalism to capitalist imperialism.

    This describes both of the uniparty parties.

    Together these make for what I argue is fascism.

    I thought it was clear enough in the first piece, but I guess not. I take responsibility for the resulting confusion.

    Thanks again.

    1. J. X. Rodriguez

      So liberal imperialism is the it (fascism). But “fascism”, the word, is pretty value-loaded (authoritarian bad thing) and can distract us into, for example, Mr. Mussolini’s peculiarities. Instead we might want to say “How can we get rid of liberal imperialism / the bad authoritarian thing?” This might help avoid the problem alluded to by Acadia above. Or will just “liberal imperialism” suffice?

  21. hk

    The way to deal with Mr. Trump and his constituents was to govern effectively so as to beat him at the polls

    Something that should be tattooed on the forehead of everyone who says Trump is the threat to “democracy.” If “democracy” is functioning, i.e. the government is at least able to address the major causes of discontent among the populace, there would be no Trump. Dysfunctional “democracy” collapses of its own misdeeds (or, at least failure to do something useful), not because of someone threatening it from “outside.”

    1. JonnyJames

      Yeah, what democracy? I don’t see any meaningful choice at all.
      The very fact that our “choice” is between two amoral, chronically-mendacious, geriatric, right-wing, authoritarian @$holes should speak volumes.

  22. Piotr Berman

    I have more praise than objections to Urie’s article, but I have big misgivings to the use of term “fascist” outside well defined context. Both liberalism and fascism belong to a toolbox of methods to maintain the structure of society that has a distinct vertical hierarchy, so apart of a certain “merit based” mobility, top should stay at the to and bottom at the bottom.

    Maintaining hierarchy is not always simple, and the consent of the levels/classes involved makes it easier, and various tools are required. Two types of tools existed since class division appeared, at least from Bronze Age (some Bronze Age societies like Harappa and Terramare seem egalitarian, but they are notable as exceptions). One type of tool relates to physical power, another to ideology/religion. Other tools are more specific to conditions, technology etc.

    The way I see it, liberals in power did use power, but comparatively, with restraint, and their ideology referred to it with moderation, although jingoism was waxing and waning. Fascist ideology make a huge stress to identify enemies, to hate them, and revels in the use of force. Palmer rides arrested 6000, deported few hundred, partly because of “liberally minded” officials. The scale was dramatically different from Germany in 1933-1939. As a species that appeared ca. 1920, fascism had a lot of peculiarities, especially the cult of a leader with tremendous talents, but this marker is perhaps unreliable. If we have to choose most consistent markers, I would pick the scope of enemies/hate in ideology and in the use of force — repressions at home, war abroad.

    I fully agree that the fascism/liberalism distinction does not have any easy to define red line, and they weakly correlate with another distinction: to what degree lower classes are appeased by satisfactory well being, as opposed to propaganda. A key feature of neo-liberalism is deprecating of satisfactory well being of everybody as a goal (it is neo- if the time horizon is limited to “since FDR”) . Say, quality of medical care depends of your choice of life style, talent and hard work, and the inventive energy of free market. The same goes for the place to live. This inevitably creates losers who may be dissatisfied but, luckily for the hierarchical structure of the society, powerless. Original fascism had some “socialist genes” that offer hope and, perchance, help to those losers.

    To summarize, we observe a slide toward fascism. A slide can be reversed with an uplift, fascism may require a revolution.

  23. Objective Ace

    >when a slumlord can buy a house for $75K and illegally rent it out for $24,000 per month, they earn a return of 32% per month on their initial ‘investment.’

    What?.. where is anyone getting 24k a month in rent, let alone as slumlord on a barely inhabitable property

    I realize this isn’t relevant to the larger point, I just wish authors would be more careful/pick more realistic examples when writing pieces like this as not doing so casts doubt on everything else written

    1. judy2shoes

      According to Rob, the house in question is two doors down from where he lives. “Leaders of a nearby religious community recently set up an illegal SRO (single-room occupancy) in the house two down from ours where they placed fifteen special needs residents in a five-bedroom house with a single bathroom. The residents each paid $1,600 per month (15 X $1,600 = $24,000 per month) for the privilege. When rain poured through the ceiling and the toilet stopped flushing, the residents called the Code Office and were summarily evicted.”

      This information is 3 paragraphs up from where you got your quote. Are you saying that Rob’s personal observation of the situation at that house is too outlandish to use as an example?

      1. Objective Ace

        If they were evicted then they arent paying $1,600 per month which is my point. No one is going to continue paying you that kind of money for a house with holes in the ceiling. You need to actually put some work into it and fix it up in order to rent it out for actual money

        And evictions cost money. And unhappy tenants destroy your property even more. Even if they managed to get $1600 upfront before the tenants were aware of the issues, rest assured this is not a 33 percent monthly return even in month 1 before tenants stopped paying/were evicted

    2. LawnDart

      There were “religious” organizations doing this in Chicago in the early 2000s, calling them drug and alcohol treatment programs: but it was only $400-$600 a month (back then) to share a room with 3 others. They would make the residents apply for food-stamps and make them turn over the card to the house, along with in-house and other mandatory “volunteer” work. Treatment was being given a sign-in sheet to show that you were attending AA/NA meetings.

      A lot of probationers and parolees were discharged from the pen and placed/mandated to these houses. Owning one of them was an easy $10Gs a month, cash-money. Better still, when you can double-dip and make the occupants pay for their stays AND bill the county or state for housing them! Plus sell the food-stamps and feed the residents instead from food pantries.

      Wrong? You bet. Does anyone care? Yeah, right– they’re nobodies, so nobody got hurt, so nobody cares.

      [Not me, I was LEO: this is how quite a number of my crooks lived.]

      1. tawal

        Obama’s donors.
        I used to sign those cards for those meetings that I attended that allowed it, most didn’t (gratefully). The Spectacle allows free rides to the kakistocrats, and their lumpen wannabes.
        I signed those freely for them, “Al Coholic”.

    3. tawal

      $1,600 per month times 15 renters = $ 24,000 per month. I used a calculator to double check.
      On a $75,000 purchase, this means a payback is a little more than 3 months.
      His point is some religious leaders pool a pittance, from their flock, and say their doing good in the community while fleecing the impoverished. Easy to evict and afford lawyers fees and all with that kind of mini-super profits.

      1. Objective Ace

        But he also said the tenants complained to code office and were promptly evicted — which means they werent paying that amount of money for very long (likely as soon as they realized there were holes in the cieling) and there were significant expenses associated with evicting said tenants and cleaning up after tenants who likely treated the place pretty poorly. Those expenses get subtracted from revenue resulting in significantly less ROI. It probably is still easily 100 percent return annually, which for acting in this manner is abhorrent and doesnt require exageration to upset the reader

        1. judy2shoes

          >>It probably is still easily 100 percent return annually, which for acting in this manner is abhorrent and doesnt require exageration to upset the reader

          I always learn something here at NC, and reading the comments is a big part of my education. Thank you for your clarifications, Objective Ace.

        2. Tom Stone

          The way this works is that the “Church” owns and operates the SRO while rents are paid by a Government agency.
          Properties must be inspected and approved before any monies are paid to the landlord, they must be legally habitable which usually means up to code.
          Five Benjamins for each sign off and it’s all good.
          And in some places a percentage flows up hill.
          The eviction was performed by the City or County both because there were many more than the legally allowed number of people living there than is allowed in a home with one bathroom..
          Apparently the structure itself was in very poor condition and from what Rob described it may well have not been legally habitable.
          If that’s the case it has probably been “Red Tagged”, there will actually be a reddish pink notice pinned to the front of the structure enumerating the code violations.
          A common form of corruption in some Cities.

  24. Lex

    US framing of fascism is cartoonish, on purpose. I return to Georgi Dimitrov’s definition of fascism, “fascism is the political expression of financial capitalism.” That’s it. It’s a rock solid definition from a man who was personally accused of the Reichstag fire, defended himself and was acquitted.

    The type of fascism is important, given that Dimitrov was a communist and such divisions of capitalism are important in communist theory. I doubt he would have said that industrial capitalism is incapable of fascism, but in Marxist thought industrial capitalism necessitates power in the working class required for industrial production.

    I stan Dimitrov on this subject, so I don’t see how either major party or the vast majority of American politics can be anything other than fascist. It’s obvious who our politicians serve and why. No armbands necessary.

  25. Keith Newman

    I found much of Mr. Urie’s article interesting, especially the description of his neighbourhood and life expectancy outcomes for the US. I also found the links informative.
    Unfortunately I continue to have serious problems with his use of terms. In this article I found “Liberal” and “liberal” confusing. Who and what exactly are these people/things in Mr. Urie’s analysis? It’s a mystery to me. It could be because I live in Canada and terms are somewhat different but I have no difficulty at all following the analyses of Yves Smith and Lambert Strether, so I don’t think it’s me.
    In Mr. Urie’s previous article I had a serious problem with his non-historical use of the term “fascist”. Where today are the massive private armies (400,000 strong in Germany) and very repressive political organisations of the Italian and German fascists of the 1930s? I also had a problem with his use of the term “the left”, when the “leftists” in question hate working class people. They are obviously not leftists. So why call them that?
    To me understanding requires the clear use of language and terms. Otherwise we quickly sink into confusion. The right wing version of this confusion in the US is the Democrats/Biden being nonsensically called “socialists”, “cultural marxists”, “communists, and whatever. Why do the same from a left perspective?
    On the related topic of how to bring about major social change for good or bad, Aurelien had an interesting article about the importance of social actors who can make things happen on the ground such as unions and active political parties and the fact that today they are much weaker than earlier or non-existant. An excerpt: When WW2 was ending “The US had intended to install a military government in France and run it themselves. Virtually all political forces in France and in exile were opposed to the idea, from the nationalists to the Communists. Critically, though, de Gaulle had been able to unify the various Resistance movements under the tutelage of the great Resistance martyr Jean Moulin, and an entire shadow government was already prepared in the country for activation when the invasion came. So when the American forces arrived they found that towns had already been taken over, collaborators were in jail or dead, and the Resistance controlled the terrain while waiting for French troops to arrive. So once again, a united leadership, a clear objective and the necessary tools had triumphed.” (

  26. samm

    Is It Fascism Yet?

    I’m surprised nobody’s flagged this for a Betteridge’s law violation, but there it is in plain English.

  27. what next

    Conversations continue as wars proliferate and civil liberties are annihilated.

    Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex.

    The “military-industrial complex” is the military-industrial-congressional-media complex.

    Scroll/peruse at your leisure:

    Oh yeah, they arrested Craig Murray because in anticipation of the Israeli war he said he’d support Hamas/Hezbollah resistance:

  28. gerry

    I have been reading “Fascism and Big Business” by Guerin. It was written in 1938 and has a very different feel as recent history. He writes that fascism was initially a tool of big industrialist (steel, mining, etc) to tame the labor movement that was empowered after WW1. In spite of their revolutionary rhetoric, they were actually in the pay and service of the bourgeoisie and eventually took power through legal means, curbing their true believers (brown and black shirts) while giving lip service to anti-capitalist ideals.
    It seems like fascism in our time doesn’t have to tame labor or use the language of the totalitarian state. They have atomized the public and distracted it with the style of professional wrestling. No wonder Trump is popular.

  29. vidimi

    interesting read. fascism is definitely on the rise across the world today and the term is also bandied about willy nilly, missing most of the targets it is aimed at. At it’s core, fascism requires the organisation of society into fascia, or in and out groups. there are different laws for the in-groups and different laws for the out-groups. by this standard, Israel, or any apartheid state, is clearly fascist. The US does not have explicitly different laws for the various in- and out-groups in the country but the laws are selectively applied, so it is semi-fascist or proto-fascist.

    The other element is, as the author notes, the military defense of capitalism, or state capitalism or imperialism. The mandated Covid shots come to mind here as governments the world over forced their people to consume this corporate product or drop into an out-group. Ironically, liberals labelled their opponents fascists.

  30. Tom Stone

    The United States does have explicitly different laws for one group of people, in some Jurisdictions.
    It’s called “The Law Enforcement Officers Bill Of Rights”.
    There are several versions out there and they are usually adopted as part of the Police Union’s contract with a City or County.
    It is a Caste system in all but name.

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