But Fascism? Oh! “It Can’t Happen Here!”
The Inspiration for Socialism must penetrate its obstacles to become a Reality. Its Biggest Obstacle??
Following in the footsteps of too few astute social/political analysts of past hundred years, the many perceptive contributors to Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA immediately present the urgent, unavoidable warning in our precarious historical moment, “Socialism or Barbarism”. The first time was during the post-World War I crisis of capitalism when Rosa Luxemburg sounded the alarm, which soon after showed its frightful image in Black Shirts marching on Rome in 1922; then less than a decade later Fascism appeared in Nazi Brown Shirts goose-stepping across Germany. Since the horrific World War II years, although many analysts of Fascism/Nazism have written important studies, the second major moment in which Rosa’s alarming phrase appeared in bold letters, just as the outlines of Usamerican style Fascism became clearer and its dangers were intensifying in class war at home and endless Imperialist war abroad, was as the title of the timely book by István Mézsáros Socialism or Barbarism published in 2001. As Istvàn Mèszàros argued in The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time, published seven years later the challenge we face is now formed between consolidating Usamerican Corporatism* and the hope of a Socialist future.
While the main message of Imagine is hope and inspiration for a better future, Frances Goldin writing in her preface to Imagine:Living in a Socialist USA, immediately makes the fundamental issue clear: "...give the power back to the working people--or risk turning into a barbaric, fascist state." In Chapter 13 journalist Juan Gonzalez underscores Goldin's concern by bluntly stating in the opening sentence of his concluding paragraph,
“The next economic crisis ...will likely spawn a much stronger neo-fascist movement than most of us can imagine.” Throughout the book other writers project similar trends toward authoritarian or dictatorial rule.
Between the real threat of Barbarism and a Socialist option, the authors of Imagine realistically lay out the challenges and tasks head with a sense of “hope” that may instill inspiration. Although clearly sounding the alarm that Fascism is a possible outcome of the current, political/economic volatility in the USA, the contributors stress optimism over pessimism. After making a short, clear analysis of “What is wrong with Capitalism” in Section 1; they move from that incisive examination of the current dangers of Corporate Capitalism and its expanding threat to democratic institutions, to present a more optimistic view of a Socialist life in the USA in Section 2: “ Imagining Socialism”. Through twenty closely interrelated chapters comprising Section 2, the contributors develop their shared vision of hope as they describe their concepts of a more equitable society re-organized under an alternative mode of social reproduction while also unflinchingly presenting the ongoing work necessary to realize a society firmly grounded in social/economic justice. However, it is in Section 3 that they give full weight to their appraisal of the challenges we all face "Getting There..."
Through all the chapters of Imagine the thoughtful essayists have made a significant contribution to guiding the attentive reader through the byways of long traveled but poorly understood routes toward a fast forming political divide: “Socialism or Barbarism”. Through their admirable course of thirty one clear, descriptive chapters, the authors cogently treat an extensive, series of social, political-economic issues that concern the majority of Usamericans (Usians). Ranging through a wide array of interrelated topics such as artistic expression, drug use/abuse, ecology, education, food quality and accessibility, housing, health/medical care, immigration, incarceration rates, law/injustice, media in all its forms, personal sexual preferences, wealth creation, its distribution, and ending poverty while creating opportunities for meaningful work, the various writers carefully treat almost every major topic relating to individual and collective human aspirations for a better life, secured in our workplaces and in our communities.
Taken together their essays “inspire...hope” at the moment of a growing sense of social anxieties, now deepening under conditions corporate concocted “Austerity” which is presently spreading fear through every sector of the Working Class comprised of the full-time working poor, the underemployed, the unemployed and the formerly employed retirees who are living in a precious struggle to survive. The contributors to Imagine are to be energetically applauded for having produced a comprehensive but concise analytical narrative of the expanding negative consequences of the corporate manipulation of the Capitalist controlled state, while simultaneously pointing to what can and must be done to create the conditions for a more equitable economic future that will go beyond corporate greed to fulfilling long neglected human needs.
Writing in an engaging, at times amusing style, easily understood by anyone reading at a mid-range high school level, the authors have created an approachable educational document which can serve as a foundation for discussions on many levels in workplaces and living spaces among families throughout the USA and perhaps beyond. Recommending this Book highly as an introductory reader, for discussion groups in all our working class venues: in offices, factories and student groups, we should all recognize that the authors’ works lend themselves to popular creative expansion but a bit more is needed.
Imagine is a Growth Document: We must broaden its reach to reap the benefits
While the authors of Imagine have masterfully succeeded in presenting many complex social, political and economic issues, in easily readable English, together they have, implicitly made a loud call for public feedback which could be expanded by deliberately reaching out to the new immigrant population in two major ways: translating the book and creating a multilingual website for open discussion. We can anticipate that a major source of creativity will emerge from the new immigrant communities by facilitating a wider discussion that is inviting to the new and recent immigrant groups, who, once encouraged and embraced will undoubtedly invigorate this vital, social discussion.
Because the Usamerican population is now more diverse than at any time in its history, the non-english speakers should be encouraged to offer their views on the transition we all must make. Many have had more experience than we in their home countries. Their contributions should be encouraged. As more diverse groups elaborate and share their ideas, which can be predicted to deepen the analysis offered by the writers of Imagine, and as each group attempts to put their fresh ideas into practice, they too will contribute to expanding the necessary critical body of thought that will help extend the benefits of socialist society while also educating people to the Barbarism now taking firmer hold of Usamerican society.
As the contributors to Imagine state in many different ways in Section 3, we all have much work to do. The major task is creating a new National/Popular Unity on the left out of a much more diverse National population. This is the major challenge before us en route to a sustainable socialist alternative. We cannot just convincingly explain migration and the abuse of migrants’ labor, we must have a functioning policy of support that actively welcomes new migrants/immigrants who will most likely bring a deep reserve of knowledge, insights, experience and energy to a socialist project. The message of our outreach must be as embracing and explicit as it is genuinely convincing.
More Vitalizing Educational Work to Be Done
Evidently choosing to devote the majority of space to the positive description of socialist life for all in the USA along with the huge collective social/political effort needed for “Getting There...”, the writers/editors have apparently decided to de-emphasize both a discussion of socialist (Marx’) theory and a fuller but necessary discussion of recent mutations of Corporatism, hence Fascism. Both educational tasks must be soon taken up.
As a number of the writers correctly note, a major part of our job is to overcome, the media’s long produced negative views of socialism. While their primary choice is to inspire hope in the positive potentials of a future Socialist life in the face of the darkening danger of emerging Usamerican Fascism, they have left important gaps in both areas which future study groups must fill in order to fully explain and analyze the trajectory of our work ahead. Clearly efforts to shape a socialist future must take place in the context of pervasive corporate power. In a number of places various contributors to Imagine have emphasized the need for a deeper look at the threat of Fascism and the development of a social interpretation of our existing reality necessary to guide a course of political actions leading to the formation of a socialist alternative. Apparently, however, avoiding both an extended digression into an analytical discussion of Fascism and Socialism, the contributors to Imagine may have felt that the existing literature on Fascism to be sufficiently well known and that a more detailed discussion of Marx’ analytical method might be distracting. Assuming that they decided to embed socialist theory in their narrations of “Imagining Socialism” and in Section 3 “Getting There:”, they seem to have made the collective decision to move to an immediate explanation of existing problems of Corporate Capitalism in Section 1 as an adequate social / economic reference for explaining the urgent need for change. Despite their evident choice, we all will have to delve more deeply into a close analysis of our path toward socialism, through the many obstacles presented by consolidating Corporatism. The Challenge is clear and must be engaged: no theory, no coherent practice.
A Theory of Praxis - included but only sketched
While the editorial choices of content and emphasis are to be respected and commended, an elaboration of the Theory of Practice and the careful analysis the Usamerican style Fascism was also evidently seen by the writers as integral but perhaps postponable. Quoted on the opening page, under the heading “Praise for Imagine:..”Glen Ford, raises the crucial issue of theory by pointedly asking “How does the great human constellation make the epochal break?” Then goes on to say, “In answering this question, socialists must apply universal principles to a whole world of particularities.” Presenting the nub of the theory / practice method in his short comment, the leave us with the suggestion. However, in obvious agreement with Glen Ford, five of the analysts, Kazembe Balagun, Michael Zweig , Clifford D. Conner, Dianne Feeley and Paul Le Blanc writing in Section 3 “Getting There” include brief outlines of theory related to practice.
For example, Paul Le Blanc concludes his Chapter “The Third American Revolution...” with his advice to activists: to “ ...face the challenge of developing tactics, educational and organizing efforts, and overall strategies to build a mass movement...”, thus in various ways he, like the others, indirectly underscores the call for a coherent theory of practice but does not elaborate. Careful readers of the five writers mentioned could and should infer the elements of a theory of practice for our time which will need to be further developed.
In a similar manner other contributors evincing an apparent general confidence of their readers’ knowledge of Fascism/Nazism, treat its threat as a frightful future development while not pausing to examine its Usamerican history and evident institutional presence. For example, in the course of discussing the deepening control of corporate power, they do not fully explain the breadth and depth of its pervasive cultural influence even though it is everywhere implied. Furthermore, perhaps because the post-WWII generations of Usamericans pride themselves in their parents’ and grandparents’ efforts to defeat the Nazis and Fascists in World War II, the writers and editors may have felt that a chapter on Fascism not necessary - anti-fascism seems to be assumed. However we should note well, too many born after WWII seem to have forgotten the deeper cultural lessons or never learned them. We have a large knowledge gap to fill. Furthermore, following on the Mainstream Media’s long, meticulous effort to equate Fascism to Communism hence Socialism, throughout the Post-WWII period, all Left educators will have to accept the complex educational challenges of explaining the history of Fascism/Corporatism including its various, home-grown expressions and its current form as deeply rooted Usamerican Corporatism.
Looking Back to go forward - Theory Essential: Principles Vital
If, as I argue, our major challenge is to overcome our own historical limitations on the left, we must contribute our ideas to the production of a dynamic, open dialogue leading to an expansion of the Theory of Practice now more urgently needed to better guide our political actions in the face of the rising Fascist threat. It will not be sufficient to merely “Move Beyond Capitalism”. Because Capitalism has repeatedly demonstrated its resilience we, as the writers convincingly argue, must quickly move toward Socialism. To make that move as decisively as possible in the face of the consolidating power of Usamerican Corporatism, we must accept a huge, multilingual, public educational responsibility through which we teach and elaborate our own theory and method in the historical context of its development and give life to the power of its internal growth. The insightful writers of Imagine have produced a valuable educational document and, as a reference in our various discussion groups, it should take us a long way on a productive path to a broader dialogue, for it is a foundational document to be elaborated and made a living educational instrument.
The formulation of a new socialist agenda will be an on-going work developed under constant corporate fire. In order to fully develop its power it must be simultaneously national and international, universal and particular. A pressing urgency is upon us. Writing in his Foreword to Socialism or Barbarism 2001, István Mészáros argued,
“... if the next century is really going to be capital’s triumphant ‘American Century’, there will be no more centuries for humans afterwards... The future of socialism will be decided in the United States, however pessimistic that may sound.”
That enormous burden for us all, in this delicate historical moment, falls to the Usians but must be cooperatively shared in the context of an international struggle of all working families across all cultural and physical frontiers. Although it must be local / National and international, it must also be realistically set in our analysis of the existing international relations of forces.
To develop a Socialist reality in the shadow of Usamerican Fascism, we must accept an immense public educational responsibility. The content of a left educational plan must be based on a theory of practice through which theory informs practice and carefully evaluated practice informs an expanding theory. The primary social nexus for the development of a coherent Theory of Praxis must be centered on the needs and existing perceptions of all working families and all those presently excluded from employment. The struggle in the USA will, must take the form of an inclusive Working families’, Community/Workplace effort to organize themselves to take charge of their lives. Grounding that struggle in a dynamically resilient practice will require a self-expanding theory to guide coherent strategies of interrelated tactics.
Writing on an intimately related theme in the April issue of Monthly Review, retired UAW Member, Greg Shotwell, in his article “A Practical Solution to an Urgent Need” nods in that direction as he sharply argues the point:
We need somewhere to go and something to do and something to join besides a study group, the occupation of a park or passive participation in a Roberts Ruled bureaucracy. We need to organize a union that unifies rather than alienates the rank and file; a union with a fist....connected to a body of people who are willing to fight for economic justice, ... for the integrity of labor, fight for the dignity of all working people in that place where effective class struggle inevitably begins: in the workplace. ( “A Practical Solution to an Urgent Need” by Gregg Shotwell ; MR Vol. 65, No11, April 2014).
As Mészáros’ title to Part I of Socialism or Barbarism states “... we start in the reality of the “American Century” toward ‘The Crossroads’.” On route, we now must cross frontiers of no return for The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time is upon us. Socialism or Barbarism.*
*Corporatism is Fascism! - As per Giovanni Gentile , Benito Mussolini’s primary theoretician of Fascism.