by Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-LA
A world-wide trend toward authoritarianism has been widely noted. Neo-fascist parties have taken the reins of power or serve as part of the parliamentary base or ruling coalition in Israel, Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, and Ukraine, among other countries. But the pundits who lament this, and perhaps see Donald Trump as reflecting the same trend in the US, are somehow incapable of seeing that the US is no exception.
“American Exceptionalism” was a term that came out of the left, seeking to explain the absence of a labor party in the US comparable to those in Europe, or to justify the idea that because the US lacked a landed, feudal aristocracy, it would be possible to achieve a democratic socialist transformation of this society through peaceful, gradual electoral reforms. That view was based on denial of the reality of sharp and explosive class and colonial contradictions in the US, which has a long history of militant strikes, including the general strike by enslaved people of African descent that doomed the Confederacy, and was the birthplace of the socialist holidays of International Women’s Day and May Day, commemorating strikes here.
Later, the term came to be associated with right-wing mythification of the US as “city on a hill”, uniquely devoted to liberty, and an “American dream” of upward mobility, material prosperity available to all, and a lack of class stratification. That’s also based on a denial of reality, as economic inequality, social stratification, poverty, and the inability of youth to improve their class position relative to that of their parents are all WORSE in the US as compared to other industrialized countries. Life expectancy, and infant and maternal death rates, are all much worse in the US, as was the death toll from COVID.
So it should not be surprising that the US in NO exception to the trend of having the ruling elites seeking more authoritarian, less formally democratic forms of rule. It should not be surprising that naked fascists have a significant share in power within the state apparatus of the US right now. People who may have doubted that when Rep. McCarthy needed to make concessions to the ultra-MAGA members of the House Freedom Caucus, can have no excuse for further illusions after McCarthy was stripped of the Speakership, and has now been replaced by Mike Johnson of Louisiana.
Like David Duke, the one-time head of the KKK, Johnson began his political career being elected to the Louisiana state House of Representatives. Although Duke was never again elected to public office, he did carry the majority of white voters in Louisiana statewide in elections for LA Governor and US Senator. Also like Duke, Johnson professed to being a born-again Christian. He went on to win election to the US House of Representatives, and is now 3rd in line of succession to the presidency.
The Louisiana Republican led the amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans in support of a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in four swing states, and refused to certify the election. He is a (white) Christian nationalist, a leading opponent of abortion and LGBTQ rights, and says that the “founding fathers” meant to protect the church from intervention by the state, not the other way around. Asked about what he stands for, he tells people to read the bible for his policies.
It’s noteworthy that his elevation came about because House Democrats went along with an effort by Matt Gaetz to “vacate” McCarthy from the Speakership for cutting a deal with the Democrats to maintain government operations. The Democrats have repeatedly and consistently backed MAGA elements in the GOP under the theory that they enhance Democrats’ chances of getting elected. This reflects the reality that the Dems have no particular opposition to or fear of fascism as long as they have a piece of the action. Anti-Racist Action has always said that “fascism is build from above and below” — from within the state apparatus and economic elite as well as by self-professed neo-Nazis and fascists like Patriot Prayer, Rise Above Movement and the Proud Boys.
That building from above involves not only Trump and the MAGA-dominated Republicans, but Joe Biden and the war-mongering Democrats. Although Trump in particular stocked the judiciary with far right ideologues, it was Joe Biden as a Senator who dismissed Anita Hill’s charges and helped install Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. The courts have done nothing to protect Reality Winner, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, or Julian Assange, who are whistleblowers and journalists, let along real political prisoners and freedom fighters like Leonard Peltier or Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The cops, the courts, and the corporate political parties are no solution to the threat and reality of fascism in power — they are part of the problem and the threat. We need urgently to organize the broad and deep unity and solidarity within the US and globally that can actually and independently resist and defeat fascism and its roots in capitalism and settler colonialism. Facing reality is a place to start.
Michael Novick is editor and publisher of “Turning The Tide,” from Anti-Racist Action, a member of the editorial and production crew of Change Links, and serving as interim General Manager of KPFK.