Fascism, Imperialism, and Amerika in 2019
The communists in Germany admonished their fellow Germans after World War II for not heeding their warning that a vote for Hitler was a vote for war. To date, the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) has never promoted one U.$. Presidential candidate over another. In some ways the last two presidents have been notable, as Barack Obama was the first not-white President, and Donald Trump has made some openly chauvinist statements and received support for them. Both elections elicited participation from those who may have been closer to the MIM position of “it’s all the same imperialist brutality” in previous elections.
During the 2012 presidential election in France, MIM talked about Jean-Marie Le Pen as part of the fascist camp. Ey was a far-right leader of the “National Rally” party. While Trump doesn’t lead any particular white supremacist organization, ey certainly makes clear eir support for such groups, and they reciprocate in kind. Trump is very open in promoting various forms of oppression, to the point of promoting terrorism against oppressed peoples.
There are examples of politicians openly supporting the ideologies of white supremacism and neo-nazism from both the Democrats and the Republicans and from the earliest beginnings of Amerikan politics. David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is a modern example of this. A former Republican Louisiana State Representative, Duke was a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1988 and the Republican presidential primaries in 1992, showing how this ideology crosses party lines and infuses mainstream politics. In 2016, Duke celebrated the presidential victory of Donald Trump, and the vision of his chief advisor Steve Bannon. Bannon’s openly xenophobic and chauvinist Breitbart News Network contributed to Trump’s campaign success, building an alliance of “Alt-Right” forces behind the president. These were many of the same forces that would later lead the infamous march with tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting Nazi slogans and starting street fights with counter-protestors. These are some of the highlights of the Trump presidency phenomenon that have rightly elicited discussions around whether fascism and white supremacy are seated in the highest office of the United $tates.
Yet we must remember that the history of Amerika is a history of white supremacy. The country was built on the genocide of indigenous people and the stealing of land and resources. Then came the enslavement, exploitation and mass slaughter of Africans. Later, the U.$. Constitution codified New Afrikans as inferior to whites. Former Senator, Vice President, and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun blocked the annexation of Mexico on the grounds that only white people could be free, writing “we have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race.”(1) This explains why Puerto Rico never became a state, why the First Nation state of Sequoyah was not accepted until it was subsumed into a white-dominated Oklahoma, and why the admission of Hawaii faced great resistance that was mitigated by accepting a predominantly white Alaska at the same time.(2)
In this article we offer our analysis of the difference between bourgeois democratic imperialism and fascist imperialism. And we will discuss some of the implications of a shift towards fascism for our organizing work. In “Fighting White Supremacy in Amerika” (this issue) we go deeper into the cultural shift towards increasing white supremacy and our thoughts on ways revolutionaries should respond. We hope this analysis helps others think scientifically about oppression and resistance and the best strategies for organizing in 2019.
What’s in a label?
Should we call Trump fascist?
MIM(Prisons) leans towards caution in the use of the term fascist. First, we don’t want to oversell the distinction between the Trump government and the Obama government. Normalizing imperialism, as if it is progressive, or as if the Hillary Clinton brand would have been less viciously militaristic and brutal for the people of the Third World, is a dangerous outcome of this sort of distinction. And we don’t want to confuse people about the potential for progressive results from imperialist elections. We need to be clear that imperialism is brutal and murderous; it is not a kinder gentler condition entirely distinct from fascism. With integration, it is only in the last 50 years that Amerika has even begun to be conceived of as anything but a white settler nation, and the brutal history of that white settler nation is imperialism, but not fascism. We are entering a period where the majority of politically active people in this country have not lived in an openly racist political system for the first time in this country’s history.
Based on our analysis of the current stage of imperialism, and our caution using the term fascist, we don’t campaign against the Trump regime because it holds and acts on fascist ideology. We campaign against the U.$. imperialist government because it is imperialist and it is the enemy of the majority of the people in the world. We think that this is an important point to emphasize in our organizing today. We don’t want to campaign to change the president, and we don’t want to mislead people into thinking what we really need to do is get these fascists out of office. At this point, our other options of Mike Pence, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton all have approximately the same enmity toward the Third World and oppressed peoples.
Sometimes we need to be alarmist about terms like fascism. Right now, we see the danger of misleading people on this strategic question to be the greater danger. In our work organizing the petty bourgeoisie towards socialism there might be a time when calling parts of the Amerikan government fascist will help to clarify the contradictions.
Imperialism is National Oppression
In recent years there has been a rise in white nationalism and white supremacy among Amerikans. (See: “Fighting White Supremacy in Amerika” this issue) We should not be surprised that racist ideas are growing again; society’s ideas reflect its structure. And the structure remains one of national oppression until imperialism is overthrown. It’s very hard to justify imperialism without a sense of superiority of some sort. There has to be some reason why virtually everyone in the United $tates is in the top 10% by income globally, and saying it’s because we steal wealth from the rest of the world doesn’t go over as easily as just claiming we’re more productive (read: superior).
Imperialism is the advanced stage of capitalism where a few powerful nations divide up and colonize the world for profit. It is manifested today most violently against Third World peoples who suffer under brutal dictatorships, which serve their Amerikan imperialist masters. These dictatorships ensure the United $tates access to cheap labor and raw materials.
“Whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan or the West Bank, it is clear that without openly adopting fascism, the essence of U.$. imperialism and its allies today is genocide and any tally of the victims of U.$. imperialism will show that it has implemented much more of Hitler’s genocidal plans than Hitler did.”(3)
Why Identify Fascism?
Imperialism is a global system of exploitation requiring war, forced starvation and murder through denial of medical care and other basic needs. Imperialism kills millions! Fascism is imperialism without the cover. Fascism is more overt. When the imperialists are forced to turn to fascism, we can win more of the middle forces to our side as they revile in disgust.So we need to know when we are approaching fascism (and of course when we are in it) because our strategy and tactics will change to address this new situation. In both bourgeois democracy and fascism our overall orientation focused on overthrowing imperialism is the same. Yet we see two likely changes:
1. Our definition of who are our friends and who are our enemies will likely change as we make alliances with anti-fascists among the classes that are not anti-imperialist under bourgeois democracy.
2. Our organizing strategy and tactics will change to focus on the fight for democratic rights and defend the targets of fascist brutality.
“The difference between bourgeois democracy and fascism is a matter of quantitative changes leading to a qualitative change. The qualitative differences are relevant to us in terms of their effect on our policies towards non-proletarian classes.”(3)
The key is defining when that qualitative change takes place, so we can prevent it or, failing that, appropriately respond to it. And in anticipating the qualitative change we need to ask if we are currently seeing an increase in quantitative changes. In terms of sustained quantitative changes within U.$. borders, a few things might be happening that would be important to note. None of these are required for a shift to fascism, but they are still potential identifiers.
Declining economics of the majority, the petty bourgeoisie. As the petty-bourgeoisie loses the economic privileges that put them firmly in the supporting-imperialism camp, they will have more potential to embrace communism as being in their material interests. But they will also be more easily rallied to fascism as an ideology that demands those privileges as a birthright.
We might see increasing incidents of white supremacy as quantitative changes leading towards the qualitative change to fascism.
- Heightened class struggle is a likely precursor to fascism. This presents such a risk to the imperialists that they use fascism to put down the struggle.
“Democratic” Imperialism or Fascist Imperialism
Communists define fascism as a form of imperialism. This is based in our study of the history of fascist systems. There are two forms of imperialism: “democratic” imperialism and fascist imperialism. Fascist imperialism is a dictatorship of the most extremely reactionary elements of finance capital. When talking about governments and countries, we do not use the term “fascist” unless they are imperialist (see our article “The Strategic Significance of Defining Fascism” for more on why this is important.(4)) The exception is that fascism can be imposed by an imperialist government from the outside through a puppet government. But the key point here is that fascism is imperialism. A fascist state power is a capitalist state power.
Including “imperialist” in our definition of fascist states excludes some countries and governments from the label, but it doesn’t help us identify what we should call “fascism.” Our most commonly-used reference on this comes from Dimitrov: Fascism is “the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”(5) The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is not open when the people are allowed redress, through the courts, etc. In the open terroristic dictatorship you stop raising money for legal fees, and start stockpiling supplies.
So what will fascism look like? Will we just know it when we see it? (See the article “(Mis)use of the fascist label in the United $tates” for more historical context on this question). Certainly the suspension of bourgeois democratic rights should be a sign that we are no longer in a bourgeois democracy. But sometimes this is insidious. Bourgeois democratic rights don’t exist for migrants. They are severely limited in oppressed nation communities with large lumpen populations. And many new laws, such as the Patriot Act, have been passed to limit civil liberties in recent decades. The Trump administration is continuing this trend, stepping up voter suppression while also attempting to add a census question about citizenship. But unlike these moves, which target the rights of oppressed-nation people, the fascist suspension of bourgeois democracy will be felt by all segments of society. In that sense we can ask ourselves, “is a white petty-bourgeois persyn likely to be killed or imprisoned just for advocating communism?” If the answer is “no,” bourgeois democratic rights are still in place.