Fascism 101 (Part 3): Who Will Lead the Fascist Movement?

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[NOTE: This the third and final installment in a three-part series. Part 1 was posted on Thursday, Dec. 1st; Part 2 was posted on Monday, December 5th]

Who will lead the fascist movement?

Which way forward for the fascist movement? Who leads them? And where are they going?

As of right now, the movement seems uncertain of itself, unsure of its way forward. Some analysts point to the fact that there are no obvious leaders. [1][2] Others point out that Tea Party events have been bankrolled by the big bourgeoisie, and dismiss the movement as nothing more than an “astroturf” operation. [3][4] Both of these insights are correct in one sense. The fascist movement is currently in the throes of a leadership crisis, which is to say it has no obvious leadership, no clear and agreed-upon path forward. The big bourgeoisie meanwhile is attempting to co-opt it; the Republican Party would just as soon the fascists play a limited role in pushing their pro-big-business policies.

But the fascist base is chafing under such ham-fisted tactics. The so-called Tea Party Convention was one example of the temporary ascendancy of those who see the movement as an ephemeral phenomenon which can be safely and quietly slipped back into the status quo. Despite prominent coverage by the mainstream media, the so-called National Convention put on by the Tea Party Nation organization was in reality nothing more than an overt ploy by a faction of political operatives (representing the big bourgeoisie) to co-opt the movement, promote its big business agenda, and make a quick buck off the gullible. The convention’s star speaker Sarah Palin — a figure who currently commands great respect among the far right in the US — basically used the opportunity to tell fascists to shut the hell up already and join the Republican Party. [5]

Many see the failure of the national convention as an indicator of the weakness of the movement. [6] On the contrary, the fact that grassroots fascist activists have enough of an inkling of what is going on to resist efforts by the Republican Party to “hijack” their organizations and members is significant. The event was boycotted by a number of top Tea Party organizers (who rejected the institutionalization of the movement as a for-profit entity). [7] We the people, stated a recent communiqué, are smart and will not buy any tactics by politicians to use or co-opt us or the movement. The Tea Party Movement started because of these tactics and we will not be used like this. [8]

One Tea Party organizer went so far as to label Sarah Palin “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, warning fellow travelers to “be alert to turncoats and deceivers being herded into the Tea Party by usurpers from the weakened Republican Party, for the sole purpose of capturing our populist movement.” [9] Contrary to the liberal line about “stupid” Tea Partiers, statements such as these suggest a relatively high level of political consciousness (certainly more so than the supposedly sophisticated radicals who supported the Obama administration).

It is of course certainly possible that the fascist movement will become co-opted (as similar movements have been in the past) into the mainstream of conservative politics. It is possible that the rank-and-file leadership will not be up to the challenge of creating and sustaining a mass movement against pressures from the State and the big bourgeoisie.

However, as we are mapping out likely future scenarios, we would be ill-advised if we were to leave out the important external conditions which have led and will lead to a fecund atmosphere for fascist recruitment. The sudden emergence of the Tea Party movement as a national force, coming out of nowhere, certainly lends credence to the idea that the situation in the United States is ripe for a new kind of populist politics, which has nothing but contempt for the status quo.

The key coalition which must be formed if the fascist movement is to grow and not retreat is its ties to the US military and ex-US soldiers. From the ranks of the military it will draw its leadership, as every fascist movement has throughout history. In Spain, a military coup formed around the leadership of General Francisco Franco. It was Benito Mussolini, an ex-military man, who was to become Italy’s Leader in the 1920s. And of course, it was the German military which trained fascism’s premier propagandist and leader, Adolf Hitler.

Today, the United States has the largest military in human history. The US is currently engaged in at least two major military occupations, as well as perpetually involved in combat operations all over the globe. What can we expect to happen when our troops come home from fighting the capitalists’ wars? Veterans returning from these wars will come back home to an economy in shambles and a polarized political discourse.

Most will have difficulty finding even the lowest-paying jobs. Many will come back severely traumatized — having seen friends die, having sustained injuries both physical and psychological, perhaps having to deal with the psychic distress of participating in repulsive behavior such as torture or the murder of innocent civilians. This is not even accounting for the possibility that the US armed forces could lose militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere. What do we expect to happen then, when Johnny comes marching home?

History has shown that demobilized soldiers can play a revolutionary role in their societies, such as the many “red” mutinies that occurred around WWI, most famously in Russia. However, the US military learned many important lessons from Vietnam, not the least of which was that conscripts were prone to mutiny and to “frag” (assassinate) their own officers. One of the major organizational restructurings of the US military after the near-disaster of Vietnam was to switch to an all-volunteer army. An all-volunteer army is one significantly less likely to mutiny or disobey orders.

In present circumstances it seems much more likely that the far Right will be more successful in recruiting active duty and demobilized soldiers than the Left. Certainly the United States government believes this is a real possibility. [10] In the words of a recent Department of Homeland Security report, “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” [11]

Before long it is likely that these two forces will meet up and form into some sort of coalition. The military and ex-military folks will provide the leadership, and the fascist base will provide the people power. In fact, evidence of just this sort of coalition-building is already turning up, for instance with groups such as the Oath Keepers actively recruiting from the US military. [12] The extent to which this group and others have already built up mass support within mercenary companies as well as US military and security forces is currently unknown. But as the centrist policies of the current US regime continue to lead the country into deeper and deeper stagnation and turmoil, it becomes increasingly likely that anti-civilian-government viewpoints will gain more adherents within military communities. Eventually we must face the possibility that a marriage of necessity — between the masses of precarious workers and ex-proletarians on the one hand, and the disciplined forces of the US military on the other — will be consummated in blood.

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