We now have a super-rich transnational capitalist class. Capitalism has transformed from the old Fordist-Keynesian epoch of national capitalism to a new and more exploitative condition wherein capitalists are freer to move capital and information around the globe in order to maximize profits. This breaking free of national politico-legal constraints has undercut the efforts of popular and working class movements.
Transnational capital has moved into a phase of hyper-accumulation that has uprooted millions of people, fanned wars and fed the military industrial complex in the most militaristic country in the world, the United States. War in now one of the main tactics of the operators in the world of transnational capital who actions create a destruction-reconstruction cycle that feeds its coffers. In this manner trillions of dollars are made available to the “Daddy War Bucks” of the modern age. Every year in America the military industrial complex (or state-management system) grows bigger and now has a new child to care for – the “war on terrorism.”
Furthermore, our jails are filling with those who are seen as threats to the system. Jailing has become a capitalized process – big business. Those with political influence in America are also pushing for a new war – that being waged on immigrants. Legal immigration has been made much more difficult and illegal immigrants are under attack from repressive laws such as the neo-fascist anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona (SB1070) and other states in the USA. The private immigrant prison complex is a growth industry of late. Undocumented immigrants comprise the fastest growing segment of the prison population in the USA. To stem the tide of illegal immigration the U.S. government has been increasingly feeding lucrative contracts to private companies hired to incarcerate and transport immigrants.
And America’s own are also under attack. Now we see neo-fascist politicians calling for cuts in America’s already thin safety net for its most vulnerable citizens, while refusing to raise taxes on corporations and the super rich. Playing Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas famously stated: “Greed is good,” and Republicans and their Tea Party elves seem to take this as a mantra. Further austerity imposed on the majority feeds the gluttons in high places. Greater social inequality and hardship placed on the weak seem to be venial sins to the rich and famous. Waging war on social programs has become a sine qua non for Tea Party membership and Republicans who cannot stand up to them for fear of failure at the voting box are jumping on the steamrollers running over America’s most vulnerable citizens.
Those with great capital are in the process of influencing structural power to accelerate the dismantling of what remains of America’s commitment to help the aged, sick and disenfranchised in the country.
As this shameful process is advancing Casino Capitalism flourishes, Susan Strange’s take on how those with knowledge of international finances gamble billions while speculating on a variety of commodities markets and a plethora of new financial packages beyond the comprehension of the average person. Some of this gambling is illegal – America’s banking system is rife with crooks and those perpetrating Ponzi schemes and other shady practices. They only occasionally get caught and then, as in the case of the AIG and other bailouts, the capitalist state steps in to bail them out. The crooked managers still get their huge financial rewards and “only” the majority of people suffer.
Such are the “minor adjustments” that capitalist governments make to accommodate problems that their system produces. Antonio Gramsci coined the term “passive revolution” to refer to efforts by dominant groups to bring about placid change to stave off greater problems from those the rich and powerful define as dangerous to capital. He indicated that this was a way that threatened leaders try to prevent revolution, which would entail the replacement of global capitalism with another political economy. These minor adjustments are designed to co-opt revolutionaries. As I write this, various leaders are trying out variations of this tactic in the Middle East. Making easy money available for people to consume more has been another such co-opting tactic in America. Far-reaching transformation of the capitalist system is an anathema to the movers and shakers of the structure and they will do whatever it takes to prevent system change that would entail a loss of their massive profits.
As I have written in The Fabrication of Political Domination: From the Paleolithic to the Present this is an old story. Throughout history, from the domestication of plants and animals, élites have arisen to accumulate great wealth and power. While exploitation and inequality created by élite-dominated political economies are millennia old, recently there has been a new fusion of transnational capital with reactionary political power. The new moguls of transnational capital are now able to influence political decision-making to an extent that would make the chiefs and kings of the past green with envy.
At the moment there is chance that the United States, as the dominant capitalist state (for the moment at least), is in danger of coming under the domination of neo-fascist ideologues. Fascism is authoritarian political ideology that promotes nationalism and glorifies the state. It is a totalitarian in orientation, meaning that those benefiting from the system work to exclude any challenges to state hegemony. Generally state leaders prefer a single-party state, but nascent fascism can exist in a two-party state, as in the United States with one party attempting to dominate politically in order to bring to the fore the essentialist views of its leaders. Today this force is the Republican Party, now infiltrated by Tea Party radicals. Those views stress past values, nationalist spirit and strong cultural unity. Neo-fascists tend to exclude ideas and changes that they see as threatening their cherished value system. They want a solidified nation that fights degeneration and decadence as defined by them. They seek a rebirth of and a return to traditional values. In the modern context it is politically incorrect to openly espouse an ideal of racial purity, so neo-fascists stress the need for cultural unity based on ancestry and past values as idealized in their exclusionist ideology. Nonetheless, in the United States this idealized viewpoint has overtones of racism and tends to focus around Christianity as the source of needed values. For instance, one slogan of the Tea Party is “Regular Folks United – The Bully Pulpit for Regular Folks.” Irregulars need not apply.
In fascism a strong leader is sought to exemplify and promote this singular collective identity. This leader and his cohort are committed to maintain national strength and are willing to wage war and create systems of national security, such as the Patriot Act, to keep the nation unified and powerful. Opposition to the state and its idealized values is defined as heretical. Militarism is defined as being essential to maintaining the nation’s power and the military industrial complex becomes sacrosanct in the pursuit of national defense.
In present-day America such neo-fascist ideas are combatively percolating in national politics and are exemplified in the rhetoric of such radical figures as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann. Surely other opportunists wait in the wings.
These are the worst and best of times. Neo-fascist rhetoric is being propagated during a time when global capitalism is creating a gaping chasm between the super rich and the masses of humanity, ecological degradation and widespread violence. Furthermore, global capitalism is advancing at a time when, according to Oxfam, by 2050, the global population is forecast to rise by one-third to more than 9 billion, while demand for food will rise even higher – by 70 percent – as more prosperous economies demand more calories and crop production continues to fall relative to population. The British charity projects that prices of staple foods could more than double in the next 20 years, pushing millions of people deeper into poverty. The effects of a combination of population growth and the growing numbers of unemployed and impoverished people in the world is creating international crises, most recently in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen; but the emergency is global and we face a crisis of humanity. The world is a powder keg and the fuse is burning.
Fascists use this time of great upheavals and uncertainties as their raison d'etre to return to an imagined world where such problems did not exist. Uneducated people are prone to heed their simplistic slogans and ideas and allow the rise of a bona fide fascist state.
Under Hitler and Mussolini fascism was a system that was exclusionary, looking for scapegoats to redirect tensions and system-generated contradictions in society. In the fascism of that era it was mainly Jews, gypsies and homosexuals that were targeted. In modern-day America it is Muslims and illegal immigrants that are under the greatest threat from officialdom, but also there has been a steady rise in hate groups, nativist extremist organizations and patriot associations. And it is not just such radical groups that would be open to a neo-fascist state. Based on personal conversations with conservatives in my locale I would say that much of the vitriolic anti-Obama rhetoric is spiced with generous amounts of racism. There is a large swath of Americans that are unaware of the major issues of a political and economic nature and others who, while informed, get much of their information from right-wing media, Fox News in particular and they listen to the likes Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. These people could easily be swayed into a camp that advocates a neo-fascist state.