Note: The Preface and Chapters One through Twenty can be found here: The 15% Solution
This is the twenty-seventh installment of the serialization of a book entitled The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022. Herein you will find Appendix II. This Appendix, purportedly written by the 20th century political analyst, (the fictional) “Dino Louis” presents a fairly lengthy definition and then discussion of the nature of fascism. It is certainly fully relevant to the United States at present and what we might face in a future governed fully by the Republican Religious Right. This Appendix begins with a Commentary on the Dino Louis text by The 15% Solution’s (fictional) author, Jonathan Westminster.
For readers coming into this serialization at this time, you should know that under the pseudonym Jonathan Westminster, the book is purportedly published in the year 2048 on the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the Re-United States. It was actually published in 1996 by the Thomas Jefferson Press, located in Port Jefferson, NY. The copyright is held by the Press.
A commentator had this to say about the book: “I am in the middle of reading ‘The 15% Solution.’ For some reason I assumed it was a recent publication. About 100 pages in I looked to see when it was published. It was published in 1996. That absolutely shocked me. What it was saying then is exactly what is happening now. The race-baiting, anti-homosexual crap that takes one’s attention away from what is actually happening, and it was written about 15 years ago. Even the 14th amendment controversy is discussed in this book, as well as so much more – ownership of the media, talk radio, etc. This is truly frightening, and if the Dems do not wake up and fight, I fear there is much worse to come.” Indeed!
And so, Appendix II
Appendix II: The Nature of Fascism and Its Precursors, Dino Louis, 1998
Author’s Commentary on the Dino Louis text
In our time (2048), when describing the economic and political system which existed throughout the period 2001-2023, first in the old United States and then in the New American Republics, the words “fascist” and “fascism” are generally used. However, it should be understood that, with few exceptions, the Right Wing Reactionary leadership in both the old United States and the New American Republics vehemently denied that they were fascists, and strongly shied away from ever using the term to describe themselves or any of their activities.
Even at the height of the NAR’s racist oppression of the non-white peoples of the Second, Third, and Fourth Republics, and violent repression of dissent and resistance within the White Republic itself, even at the time of the most extreme concentration of power in the hands of the Executive Branch of the NAR and the substitution of the rule of men for the rule of law, and even with the perpetuation of one-party (ACNP) government, the Right pursued the fiction that it was following the precepts of Democracy and was the protector of traditional American freedoms.
Even after it had used the amendment process in the most grotesque way to make the original U.S. Constitution a mere shadow of its original self, the Right-Wing Reactionaries claimed that they were doing nothing more than protecting the traditional “American way of life.” And they shunned the use of the term “fascism” at the risk of alienating some of their strongest, and most violent, supporters from the Far Right, groups and organizations that proudly labeled themselves “Fascist” and “Nazi.”
But the ACNP leadership persisted in this policy to the very end. It was the natural outgrowth of a fashion broadly used by Right-Wing Reaction during the Transition Era, of racists claiming they were not racists, anti-Semites claiming they were not anti-Semitic, misogynists claiming they were not anti-female, xenophobes claiming they were not xenophobic, and homophobes claiming they were not homophobic.
It was a peculiar tactic bred of a time just before the commencement of the Transition Era in 1980 when in fact prejudice of most kinds was considered by most people to be nasty stuff. The tactic served a very useful purpose for the Right-Wing Reactionaries because many of their opponents were drawn into useless, distracting, no-win “yes-you-are, no-I’m-not” arguments, rather than discussing and exposing the true policies and desired social outcomes advocated by the Right-Wing forces, regardless of how they characterized themselves.
In our time, the phrase “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck” characterizes the approach of most historians to the study of the period 1980-2022. Thus we use the terms “racist,” “anti-Semite,” “homophobe” and “fascist,” regardless of whether or not the Right-Wingers of the time accepted them as appropriate to describe themselves. But nevertheless, it is important to define terms. To do this, I once again draw upon the work of Dino Louis, and present his essay, “On the Nature of Fascism and Its Precursors,” written in 1998.
A Definition of Fascism (the text from here onwards is that of Dino Louis)
Fascism is a political, social, and economic system that has the following baker’s dozen plus one of major defining characteristics:
1. There is complete executive branch control of government policy and action. There is no independent judicial or legislative branch of government.
2. There is no constitution recognized by all political forces as having an authority beyond that claimed, stated, and exerted by the government in power, to which that government is subject. The rule of men, not law, is supreme.
3. There is only one political party, and no mass organizations of any kind other than those approved by the government are permitted.
4. Government establishes and enforces the rules of “right” thinking, “right” action, and “right” religious devotion.
5. Racism, homophobia, misogynism, and national chauvinism are major factors in national politics and policy-making. Religious authoritarianism may be part of the package.
6. There is no recognition of inherent personal rights. Only the government can grant “rights.” Any “rights” granted by the government may be diminished or removed by it from any individual or group at any time without prior notice, explanation, or judicial review. Thus, there is no presumed freedom of speech, press, religion, or even belief, automatically accompanying citizenship. There are no inherent or presumed protections against any violations of personal liberty committed by law-enforcement or other government agencies.
7. Official and unofficial force, internal terror, and routine torture of captured opponents are major means of governmental control.
8. There are few or no employee rights or protections, including the right of workers to bargain collectively. Only government-approved labor unions or associations are permitted to exist, and that approval may be removed at any time, without prior notice.
9. All communications media are government-owned or otherwise government-controlled.
10. All entertainment, music, art, and organized sport are controlled by the government.
11. There may or may not be a single charismatic leader in charge of the government, i.e., a “dictator.”
12. The economy is based on capitalism, with tight central control of the distribution of resources among the producers, and strict limitations on the free market for labor (as noted above).
13. The fascist takeover of the government of a major power always leads to foreign war, sooner or later.
14. Built as it is on terror, repression, and an ultimately fictional/delusional representation of historical, political, and economic reality, fascism is inherently unstable and always carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. To date, such seeds have always sprouted within a relatively short historical period of time.
The Economic Precursors of Fascism in the United States
Fascism does not arise when things are going well in a country. It arises only when a capitalist country faces either (a) a significant threat of left-wing takeover of the government or (b) a socio/economic crisis with which the conventional democratically elected government is unable to effectively deal. It is likely that within the next few years the United States will face scenario (b).
As is well known, the United States’ economy is in decline. Public and private debt is at all-time highs, as is the foreign trade deficit. Deindustrialization is occurring at an accelerating pace, as are the export of investment capital for productive resources and the resulting permanent loss of manufacturing jobs. There is an accelerating dis-accumulation of labor around productive resources, as the latest technological revolution proceeds apace.
The national economic infrastructure is decaying, as government investment in it is at an all-time low compared to that of other developed countries. The country faces enormous costs for the clean-up of previous private and governmental degradation of the environment. Finally, and this is a critical precursor to fascism: the “free market,” currently glorified by the Right as the solution to every problem from health care to incarceration, from education to poverty, has been allowed to run rampant on a field of utter individualism.
These developments have taken place in the context of a pattern of imperial rise and decline observed in a number of countries over the past 500 years brilliantly analyzed by the Yale University historian Paul Kennedy over ten years ago now (1987). Prof. Kennedy described a pattern of overseas expansion/military expenditures, unwillingness to self-tax, dependence on borrowing, the creation of an ever-expanding national debt, all leading eventually to financial, political and diplomatic disaster. This is the pattern being followed almost to the letter by the U.S. at the present time.
There is serious social dislocation as well. Due primarily to capital disinvestment, many central cities are dying. At the other end of the geographical spectrum, the institution of the family farm is dying as well, with formerly self-employed farmers becoming rural wage-workers. The impact of global warming on water supply, agriculture, and weather patterns is beginning to become evident, with no national program to respond to it in sight. The education and health care delivery systems are failing. The supply of affordable housing is decreasing and the incidence of homelessness, even among intact families, is increasing. Racism and homophobia are on the rise, both in the thoughts and actions of many.
Economic Decay Leading to Political Change
Given the underlying gradual disintegration of the economic base of American life as we know it, domestic dissatisfaction and unrest are on the increase. Presently, many of the country’s economic decision-makers support attempts to moderate the economic decline by liberal democratic means and policies. However, no U.S. government, not even a “liberal” one of the Clinton variety, has been able to effectively deal with the underlying cause of US economic decline: a fundamentally flawed capital investment policy.
To do that would first require recognizing the fact that the market for capital investment is different than the one for the production, distribution, and sale of goods and services. A “free” market for the latter, if properly maintained, has many obvious benefits to consumers in terms of price, availability and quality.
A “free” market for capital investment policy on the other hand leads to the situation which intensified during the Reagan-Bush era: increasing capital export; increasing use of new capital to buy existing productive resources, not create new ones; increasing use of capital for speculative purposes and investment in non-productive resources such as real estate; the increasing tendency of companies to use new capital to buy non-related businesses, rather than investing in expansion of their own.
Second, to be effective, the Administration would have to actively intervene in that market, through what is usually called “industrial policy,” following the example of the world’s two most successful economies, those of Germany and Japan. Even if it wanted to do this, however, no U.S. Administration would ever be able to get such a program through Congress, whether Republican- or Democratic-controlled. (Just consider what happened to President Clinton’s very modest 1993 “stimulus package” and his much more ambitious, but still basically conservative health care reform proposals in the 103rd Congress.)
The economic policies that Clinton-type governments attempt to implement (not always with success) are: modestly raising taxes on those who can afford to pay; changing tax and fiscal policy to encourage worker retraining and technological development; strengthening the educational system; reforming welfare to put some of its beneficiaries to work; modest investment in rebuilding the infrastructure; cleaning up the environment; ‘civilian conversion’ in the armaments industry; and so forth. Such reforms, even if implemented, however, will not be able to solve the basic underlying economic problem: the shortage and diversion of domestic private investment capital.
(The primary function of the export of investment capital to cheap labor markets is to boost the profitability of that capital. But it has a secondary function as well: to attempt to maintain for some period of time the relative standard of living of U.S. workers, as their per capita incomes fall, by providing for them a plethora of relatively inexpensive consumer goods such as electronic products and clothing.)
People cannot “be put back to work” if there are no jobs to put them to work in. Even if people are properly trained and retrained, they cannot “work at good jobs” if there are no good jobs to work at. Infrastructure rebuilding and environmental repair does provide jobs, but not permanent ones, and again, as with military spending, new productive capacity is not created directly. On top of all this are, of course, the intensification of technological change, increase in automation, and the decline in the need for human labor input.
It is likely that the present downward trends in employment security and incomes will continue and intensify. A highly likely outcome of all this is increasing domestic unrest. This will eventually be expressed in more than the random violence of the 1992 L.A. and 1997 Houston riots. And it will eventually occur in certain highly oppressed white communities as well as black ones, as among the Appalachian coal-miners, and possibly even among such other remnants of the once-powerful American labor movement such as the auto workers or the steel workers, which have at least a family memory, if not an actual one, of what resistance in the face of misery was like.
(From the end of the Second World War onwards, the once powerful American trade union movement has gradually been destroyed. Among the signal events in this process was the ban on communists in union leadership provided for by the so-called “Taft-Hartley” Act of 1947. Whatever else might be said about them, it was U.S. communists who provided the most militant and effective trade-union leadership during the heady organizing days of the 1930s.)
(At the other end of the downward spiral of the power of organized labor in the old U.S. was the firing of the striking air traffic controllers by Pres. Reagan in 1981. The legal use of permanent scabs that gradually spread following this event sealed the doom of American organized labor. By the 1990s, workers who had once routinely demanded better wages, shorter hours, and improved working conditions, have been reduced to begging their employers just to let them hold onto their jobs, even if that means taking less in pay and benefits.)
In this context, if the economic decision-makers follow the pattern followed in many other countries at many other times, eventually, to remain in control of the economy and their assets, they will abandon liberal democratic attempts at reform and turn to the use of government as a repressive force. They will also use racism to re-split the black and white forceful rebellion against the declining standard of living. (Both the use of physical force and of political racism are prime features of fascist government, of course.) Indeed, during the twentieth century, a frequent national response to economic decline and increasing social unrest in a country with a democratic form of government has been a fascist takeover, through either constitutional or extra-constitutional means.
The Advent of Fascism in the United States
It thus can be postulated that fascism, as defined above, will come to the United States, perhaps as soon as during the next five years or so. As civil unrest and violent disorder spreads, given that there is no organized Left in the United States, the situation will be blamed on many factors: the blacks, the gays, the foreigners, the “liberals in Congress, the courts, and [if applicable], the White House,” the media, “permissiveness,” the “cultural elite/children of the 60s,” taxation, and so forth.
Since it is none of the above but rather their own policies which will bring the country to its highly disrupted state, in their quest to re-establish law and order, the economic decision-makers will have no choice but to turn to fascism. The next question is, “how will that happen, by force or by political means?”
In the political arena, the “respectability” of racial politics (as shown by the German Nazi experience, an important historical precursor of fascist politics), was restored by the Reaganite-Bushists in the 1980s. Fascist-type thinking, as defined at the outset of this article, is already prominent in mainstream American politics. It was prominently featured in the speech-making at the 1992 Republican National Convention, in the 1992 Republican Party Platform and the 1994 Republican “Contract on America,” in the political campaigns of various Republican and independent candidates. It will not be necessary for some new fascist party to gain respectability first, and credibility second. Its precursor already exists.
In this scenario, there will be an ever-intensifying tendency for Right-Wing politicians to propose solutions to the problems facing the country in the simplistic terms the country came to know so well during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. As has been the pattern of every Republican Administration since that of Richard Nixon, these answers will increasingly focus on solutions which require/facilitate the concentration of governmental power in the hands of the executive branch (Lind), and invariably will involve limitations upon individual freedom and liberty. Increasingly heard will be calls for “law and order” on the one hand and punishment/separation/quarantine of the “perpetrators” on the other.
Increasingly (as is already happening), the media will be accused of fanning the flames of civil unrest simply by reporting on it (and to a limited extent on its true causes). The judiciary will more and more be described as favoring the “victims of crime,” and of irrelevance. Into this mix will step the “direct problem-solvers,” for whom the public has been prepared for some years.
They will promise to: “fix things,” “in place of government, put God back into American life,” “establish order,” “get Congress out of the way of the people, make the Courts responsive, and bring the media under control.”
Doing so, they promise, will “restore law and order and revive American greatness.” Without saying in so many words what they are planning to do, at the end of this politico-historical process once in power the forces promoting this line will have created a fascist state. One can only hope that warnings such as this, which I have made on more than one occasion in the past and which sadly have attracted little attention, are heeded before it is too late.
Author’s Note: Obviously, Louis’ repeated warnings, and those of others at the time as well, were not heeded. If they had been, this book would never have existed. And that would have been a good thing.
Kennedy, P., The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, New York: Random House, 1987.
Lind, M., “The Out-of-Control Presidency,” The New Republic, August 14, 1995, p. 18.
The original hardcover and trade paperback editions (1996) of The 15% Solution are available on both Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. The 2004 print-on-demand re-issue of the book from Xlibris, with a New Introduction dealing with the first four years of the real Republican Presidency that began in 2001, can be found at Xlibris.com (http://www2.xlibris.com/), as well as at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. There is a “Sub-Home Page” for this serialization at the lower right-hand corner of the Home Page of TPJmagazine (www.TPJmagazine.us). It contains a full archive of all the chapters as they are published over time. It also has such items as the Disclaimer, the cast of characters, the author’s bio., cover copy, and several (favorable) reviews. The serialization is also appearing on www.BuzzFlash.com, Dandelion Salad; The Greanville Post; and TheHarderStuff newsletter.
Jonathan Westminster and biography are based on a pseudonym.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for Truthout/BuzzFlash (http://www.truth-out.org/, http://www.buzzflash.com), Dr. Jonas is also Managing Editor and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Senior Columnist for The Greanville POST; a Contributor to Op-Ed News.com; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter; and a Contributor to The Planetary Movement.