The Nature of the American State: Corporate Dictatorship, Mass Incarceration, and Imperialism, by Yanis Iqbal

Graffiti "4 More Years of Fascism"

Image by Dandelion Salad via Flickr

by Yanis Iqbal
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Aligarh, India
December 29, 2020

“Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.”

— George Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1990): xvii

USA’s President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks have already deflated the hopes of lesser-evilists. Filled with deep-dyed neoliberals and unswerving imperialists, Biden’s cabinet will try its hardest to competently revive the murderous American empire. Externally, it would mean the professional management of an imperialist, interventionist and hyper-militarized foreign policy in the name of “humanitarianism”. Internally, it would signify the discursive re-packaging and ideological invisibilization of an interminable domestic war against Black communities. Whereas Donald Trump politically publicized this war as part of his white chauvinist campaign, the Democrats will cleverly cloak it in the hollow language of national unity and multiculturalism.

When confronted by the reality of Democrats openly defying some leftists’ expectation that they will be minimally better than Trump, we need to re-think our political categories and mode of conceptualization. One major concept in need of rectification is “fascism”. Through its repeated use by corporate democrats to create the Trumpist bogeyman, the word has totally lost any analytical value within the US political discourse. In opposition to the ruling elite’s propagandistic obscuration of fascism, we need to theorize it from a Marxist perspective which allows us to use it for revolutionary, tactical purposes.

In his book Blood in My Eye, the Black Panther party leader George Jackson wrote:

“One has to understand that the fascist arrangement tolerates the existence of no valid revolutionary activity. It has programmed into its very nature a massive, complex and automatic defense mechanism for all our old methods for raising the consciousness of a potentially revolutionary class of people. The essence of the U.S.A. totalitarian socio-political capitalism is, concealed behind the illusion of a mass participatory society. We must rip away its mask. Then the debate can end, and we can enter a new phase of struggle.”

From the above quotation, we can understand the structural nature of fascism in America. Instead of being confined to a right-wing faction of the political elites, fascism represents a superstructural tendency of capitalism, which helps the bourgeoisie to overcome the resistance of various social forces. Democrats and Republicans utilize these fascist tendencies in varying degrees to perpetuate the unending brutality inflicted on revolutionary forces through methods such as mass warehousing, repression and racist policing.

While Democrats and Republicans are firmly situated within a fascist framework, they are not wholly identical. While the former utilizes fascist tactics in an unobtrusive manner, the latter amplifies and foregrounds it as a central strategy. If the Democrats reproduce a dual system of political subjects – one group with “rights” and another consigned to zones of non-being – Republicans politically intensify it. Under Republicans, marginalization of those traditionally ghettoized by the former nominally “liberal” state is noticeably extended, giving a “visible” and “spectacular” character to the silent, structural violence of Democrats’ governmental apparatus.

As Gabriel Rockhill wrote:

“While it is certainly true, from a tactical organizing perspective, that dealing with the histrionics of the good cop [Democrats] is usually far preferable to the barefaced barbarism of the bad cop [Republicans], it is strategically of the upmost importance to identify them for what they are: partners in capitalist crime.”

Thus, it is not the case that Democrats signify a radical break from the fascism of Republicans. Rather, both are concrete embodiments of a single phenomenon: fascism.

Whereas, the liberalism of the Democrats bases its administrative operations on an officially unannounced state of emergency (fascism) for dissident forces, the authoritarianism of the Republicans merely does the task of proclaiming aloud that state of emergency. Trump, for example, did nothing more than the aggressive declaration of a preexisting fascist formation through the creation of alliances with different social sectors — neo-confederates, declassed lumpenproletariat, socio-economically destabilized petty bourgeois and a historically privileged segment of white proletariat facing the specter of downward mobility.

Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, writes, “the corporate Democrats… are the most dangerous because so few people conceive of them as fascists, despite their abject subservience to corporate dictatorship, the carceral state, and endless warfare.” With the election of Biden, the “inconspicuous” fascism of Democrats has re-gained power, promising to return America back to its “natural” conditions of dehumanization: low-intensity, oligarchy-controlled democracy for whites; guns, prisons, murder and war for Blacks. In a situation like this, it is of utmost importance that we comprehend the true nature of fascism in America.


Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at yanisiqbal@gmail.com.

Previously published at Dissident Voice, Dec. 28, 2020


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From the archives:

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Vijay Prashad: The Democratic Party and the War Machine

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