We could have guessed that "fascism" would come to this

Now, I suppose I could have researched this diary a little further with some research into actual use of the words "fascist" and "fascism." But it was hard to miss, in the run-up to the 2020 election, voices crying out in unison: "Donald Trump is a fascist!" This was done as if we all recognized that a "fascist" was the sort of supervillain to be properly deposed through free and fair elections in which the "fascist" was to lose to an aging neoliberal. And the aging neoliberal was to have no credibility to speak of. Here one thinks of two things:

1) in January of 2017 before Trump's inauguration, "Vox" published a piece titled "Donald Trump isn't a fascist." Sure, it's a bit sloppy, but the basic truth of it is that fascists don't respect democracy at all, and that Trump despite all of his whining left the White House. What do we do, in 21st-century America, when the threat of "fascism" looms? Why, we play along with their policy initiatives for four years, we let them destroy themselves with bad electioneering, and then if they complain too loudly about our pseudo-democracy, we kick them off of Twitter. Problem solved!

2) There was, to be sure, a solution proposed to a problem of actual fascism in an era of actual fascism -- by which is meant, here, the early- and mid-twentieth century. I refer, here, to the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. William Shirer tells us, here linked to the Wikipedia page for convenience, that the Gestapo executed nearly 5,000 people in connection with this assassination attempt. Some of the people whose lives were ended in the witch-hunt after the assassination attempt might have proved useful to the Nazi regime in its hour of greatest need -- Erwin Rommel, for instance, had provided military leadership to Nazi armies. But that's how actual fascism worked -- violent beginning, violent end. Such stuff of history was doubtless far more severe than, say, suspending Donald Trump's Twitter account or, say, denying all of Trump's sixty-or-so challenges to the validity of the 2020 election. Or even, for that matter, than the January 6th idiocy.

At any rate, what we have of accusations of "fascism" in these post-Trump days is apparently a media war between Keith "neoliberal enough for MSNBC" Olbermann and Jimmy "I'm basically an entertainer" Dore. Caitlin Johnstone reports it: "“Someone got their feels feels hurt and now they wanna censor their critics like a regular authoritarian fascist,” Dore responded to Olbermann’s post." But using the word "fascist" isn't exclusively Dore's trope these days. As Johnstone further reports: "The Emma Vigeland tweet that Dore was riffing on in the clip was more hand-wringing about a 'red-brown alliance'". By "red-brown alliance," here, is meant an insinuation that leftists were working with "fascists." So, you see, that's how it's done in the 21st century. Wingnuts like, say, former President Donald Trump, can be coddled for four years and then dismissed as "fascists" and deplatformed. And then if you don't like your political opponent, as Olbermann clearly doesn't with Dore, you try to associate them with "fascists," and recommend their deplatforming as well.

To be sure, there is a real dictatorship at work here. It's the one everyone supports. It flies the banner of "freedom," but what apologists for the regime really mean by "freedom" is investor freedom, the freedom of investors to do as they please with their vast arrays of assets. The basis of this real dictatorship has a name already -- it is what Sheldon Wolin calls "inverted totalitarianism." (If you want to see this term applied, check out Wolin's piece in The Nation from 5/1/2003.

And there is an ideology of "freedom" behind this dictatorship -- it is called neoliberalism, and its most important critique is Philip Mirowski's Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste. As neoliberalism is an ideology of investor freedom, its idea of the role of government is that government is there to create markets so that the bets of super-rich investors in government-created markets can be covered -- by government.

You are, you see, free under inverted totalitarianism -- but your freedom is never of any consequence unless you are a member of a very small owning class, in which case you get to go into space or something like that while deciding the directions the world will "choose." And you have the right to vote -- for the neoliberal of your choice. Democracy today is another corporation to be managed, and with voting you are periodically asked to choose the better manager from a menu limited to two, and only two, choices. Any dissent from the catastrophic direction of the whole apparatus of management will not be granted any power.

In such a world, invocations of "fascism" will be subject to a Law of Diminishing Returns -- the more people yell "fascism," the less the "fascism" invoked will have any connection to actual fascism. Meanwhile we swim in actual dictatorship like fish in water.

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Lookout's picture

...happened long ago in the US. By that definition the US is and has been a fascist country for quite a while.

There are several views of fascism and this is one...

Benito Mussolini’s resolution and speech of 13-14 November, 1933, outlining the shortcomings of capitalism and presenting the corporatist alternative...

This resolution drafted by the Head of the Italian Government and read by him on November 13th 1933, before the Assembly of the National Council of Corporations, on the eve of his great speech:

“The National Council of Corporations:

define Corporations as the instrument which, under the aegis of the State, carries out the complete organic and unitarian regulation of production with a view to the expansion of the wealth, political power, and well-being of the Italian people;
declare that the number of Corporations to be formed for the main branches of production should, on principle, be adequate to meet the real needs of national economy;
establish that the general staff of each Corporation shall include representatives of State administration, of the Fascist Party, of capital, of labour, and of experts;
assign to the Corporations as their specific tasks: conciliation, consultations (compulsory on problems of major importance), and the promulgation, through the National Council of Corporations, of laws regulating the economic activities of the country;
leave to the Grand Council of Fascism the decision on the further developments, of a constitutional and political order, which should result from the effective formation and practical working of the Corporations.“

and an except from his great speech...

The Corporation operates in the economic field as the Grand Council and the Militia operate in the political field.

Corporations mean regulated economy and therefore also controlled economy, for there can be no regulation without control.

Corporations supersede socialism and supersede liberalism, they establish a new synthesis.

One fact is symptomatic, a fact which has perhaps not been adequately considered, namely that the decline of capitalism coincides with the decline of socialism.


There is no doubt that, in view of the general crisis of capitalism, the Corporate solution will force itself to the fore everywhere, but if the system is to be carried out fully, completely, integrally, revolutionarily, three conditions are required.

A single political party, in order that political discipline may exist alongside of economic discipline and that the bond of a common fate may unite everyone above contrasting interests. Nor is this enough. Besides the single political party there must be a totalitarian State, a State which by absorbing the energy, interests, and aspirations of the people, may transform and uplift them.

But even this is not enough. The third and last and most important condition is to live in an atmosphere of strong ideal tension.

We, in Italy, are living in this atmosphere today.


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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Wouldn't you like to be a fascist too?

(Not trying to diminish your essay. I agree totally. Same with socialist. The word actually has a meaning, and it isn't "anyone I disagree with.")

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Idolizing a politician is like believing the stripper really likes you.


Learn to pronounce
a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.
"democratic countries were fighting against totalitarianism"


fas·​cism | \ ˈfa-ˌshi-zəm also ˈfa-ˌsi- \

Definition of fascism

1often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition


It is easy to conflate these two terms because they have a lot of overlap -- not to mention the natural fluidity of language that makes definitions evolve over time. Both are abstractions attempting to describe an ideal type of all powerful state.

The current wave of power augmentation by the American State is based on a new and different type of FEAR -- rather than halting the spread of communism with Wars in Korea and Indo-China, we are halting the spread of the Trumpian Virus by establishing Official Truth and suppressing anything that contradicts it.

In the current mix of suppression techniques there is nothing YET that matches the totalitarian regimes that clashed against each other in World War II -- fascist Italy and Nazi German vs Communist USSR. Anybody want to bet on whether this power to define the Official Truth will be surrendered once the Virus is under control?

Or do you think this is the way of the future for both American political parties?

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I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.

lotlizard's picture


Red MAGA, Blue MAGA — fascist-style dehumanization of political opponents seems to be well under way in both directions.

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@lotlizard .

Oy ve.

That was a truly nauseating article in the truly nauseating Salon.

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I cried when I wrote this song. Sue me if I play too long.

lotlizard's picture

@fire with fire  
Too bad the whole process is politicized and unlikely to facilitate any actual fact-finding. Everyone will believe what they want to believe, and those closest to power and possession of actual knowledge will vehemently assert whatever it is that they want others to believe, with little regard for the truth.


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