What’s missing from the saga

Sam Smith 

While there is a growing realization that the dysfunctional dictator docent in the White House shouldn’t be in the job, there is a stunning lack of alternative paths- save his impeachment and replacement by the consistently wrong and frequently evil Michael Pence.

A main reason for this vacuum is the most apathetic, unimaginative, conservative and irresponsible Democratic Party in modern history. There is no way wrong can be effectively combatted without a decent alternative and the Democrats have been acting as though just finding fault with Trump will do the job.

A decade, writing about the threat of fascism, I noted:

Germany’s willingness to accept Hitler was the product of many cultural characteristics specific to that country, to the anger and frustrations in the wake of the World War I defeat, to extraordinary inflation and particular dumb reactions to it, and, of course, to the appeal of anti-Semitism. Bearing in mind all the foregoing, there was also:

– A collapse of conventional liberal and conservative politics that bears uncomfortable similarities to what we are now experiencing.

– The gross mismanagement of the economy and of such key worker concerns as wages, inflation, pensions, layoffs, and rising property taxes. Many of the actions were taken in the name of efficiency, an improved economy and the “rationalization of production.” There were also bankruptcies, negative trade balance, major decline in national production, large national debt rise compensated for by foreign investment. In other words, a hyped version of what America and its workers are experiencing today.

But the Germans didn’t invent fascism. It was the Italians:

One needs to separate Hitler, Nazism and fascism. Conflating these leads the unwary to assume easily that all three are inevitably characterized by anti-Semitism, when in fact only the first two are. By avoiding this distinction we don’t have to face the fact that America is closer to fascism than it has ever been in its history.

To understand why, one needs to look not at Hitler but at the founder of fascism, Mussolini. What Mussolini founded was the estato corporativo – the corporative state or corporatism. Writing in Economic Affairs in the mid 1970s, R.E. Pahl and J. T. Winkler described corporatism as a system under which government guides privately owned businesses towards order, unity, nationalism and success. They were quite clear as to what this system amounted to: “Let us not mince words. Corporatism is fascism with a human face.”

Adrian Lyttelton, describing the rise of Italian fascism in The Seizure of Power, writes: “A good example of Mussolini’s new views is provided by his inaugural speech to the National Exports Institute on 8 July 1926. . . Industry was ordered to form ‘a common front’ in dealing with foreigners, to avoid ‘ruinous competition,’ and to eliminate inefficient enterprises. . . The values of competition were to be replaced by those of organization: Italian industry would be reshaped and modernized by the cartel and trust. . .There was a new philosophy here of state intervention for the technical modernization of the economy serving the ultimate political objectives of military strength and self-sufficiency; it was a return to the authoritarian and interventionist war economy.”

Lyttelton writes that “fascism can be viewed as a product of the transition from the market capitalism of the independent producer to the organized capitalism of the oligopoly.” It was a point that Orwell had noted when he described fascism as being but an extension of capitalism. Lyttelton quoted Nationalist theorist Affredo Rocco: “The Fascist economy is. . . an organized economy. It is organized by the producers themselves, under the supreme direction and control of the State.”

Central to this model of fascism, for its acceptance, is convincing its major victims, workers, to blame others than the corporatist elite. In Germany, it was the Jews, but in America today we have increasingly not only the ethnic prejudices of white nationalists but a liberal disparagement of the white working class, assumed by many to be defined by the former.

This is a potentially mortal mistake. It merely provides recruiting assistance for the white nationalists, not to mention the corporatist elite and the Trump administration.

A striking exception to this dismal pattern in left of center America is the program espoused by Bernie Sanders. Far from being radical it is reminiscent of policies Democrats used to support but have, for several decades, either forgotten about or dismissed. And the beauty of these policies is that they are ones not only appealing to the white working class but to blacks, latinos, women, labor unions, and the young – in short aimed at a coalition that we desperately need but is currently missing.

Let’s run through some examples:

  • Demanding that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes. Corporations must stop shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes.
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020.
  • Putting at least 13 million Americans to work by investing $1 trillion over five years towards rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, railways, airports, public transit systems, ports, dams, wastewater plants, and other infrastructure needs.
  • Reversing trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA, and PNTR with China that have driven down wages and caused the loss of millions of jobs. If corporate America wants us to buy their products they need to manufacture those products in this country, not in China or other low-wage countries.
  • Creating 1 million jobs for disadvantaged young Americans by investing $5.5 billion in a youth jobs program. Today, the youth unemployment rate is off the charts.
  • Fighting for pay equity by signing the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. It is an outrage that women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.
  • Making tuition free at public colleges and universities throughout America. Everyone in this country who studies hard should be able to go to college regardless of income.
  • Expanding Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000. At a time when the senior poverty rate is going up, we have got to make sure that every American can retire with dignity and respect.
  • Guaranteeing healthcare as a right of citizenship by enacting a Medicare for all single-payer healthcare system. It’s time for the U.S. to join every major industrialized country on earth and provide universal healthcare to all.
  • Requiring employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; two weeks of paid vacation; and 7 days of paid sick days. Real family values are about making sure that parents have the time they need to bond with their babies and take care of their children and relatives when they get ill.
  • Enacting a universal childcare and prekindergarten program. Every psychologist understands that the most formative years for a human being is from the ages 0-3. We have got to make sure every family in America has the opportunity to send their kids to a high quality childcare and pre-K program.
  • Making it easier for workers to join unions by fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act. One of the most significant reasons for the 40-year decline in the middle class is that the rights of workers to collectively bargain for better wages and benefits have been severely undermined.
  • Breaking up huge financial institutions so that they are no longer too big to fail. Seven years ago, the taxpayers of this country bailed out Wall Street because they were too big to fail. Yet, 3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions are 80 percent bigger today than before we bailed them out.

Compared with legislation passed in the New Deal and Great Society, there is nothing radical about this. These are issues that can bring the white working class into proressive politics creating fairness by common goals.

Of course, listening to the media and conventional Democratic leaders these days one has little notion that such ideas even exist. The mass media has given us two choices: support Donald Trump or oppose him. The thought that the ideas of America are vastly broader that this is kept concealed from the public. This must change.

While little hope can be expected from the Democratic elite, there is nothing stopping the young, the wise, the varied genders, the imaginative and those of all ethnicities from coming together in a coalition for an America that works better for everyone.

This is an opportunity especially for the young.

Remember that during much of the primaries last year, Bernie Sanders was getting more votes from young people than Trump and Clinton put together.

The young did it in the 1960s and they can do it again. Whites and blacks, men and women, and other groups the media likes to keep divided can come together as well.

The story is there. It’s just waiting for some to make it real.

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