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Fascism: Scare? Tactics?
A Comment on Mickey Z. and Antiwar Tactics

by Theo Papathanasis
October 12, 2004

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“One can never be radical enough; that is, one must always try to be as radical as reality itself.”

-- V.I. Lenin (cited in cited in Alexander Cockburn, The Golden Age is in Us)

“He who will not speak of capitalism should keep silent of fascism too.”

-- Max Horkheimer (cited in Slavoj Zizek, On Belief)

Mickey Z.'s call to mobilize apathetic, eligible voters to support Nader by virtue of that candidate's stance on health care was a fine statement, aimed at conducting a useful electoral experiment, exploring the possible, future dynamics of a potential progressive voting bloc. [1]  Now Z. is claiming some leftists concerned about fascist trends in the US are actively preying upon people's fears as primarily motivated, unbelievable as this may sound, so the sheepy electorate will vote for Kerry.

Election 2004 will be decided by fear.


President (sic) George W. Bush and company have scared half the voters to death with stories about they’ll vote for him.


Senator John F. Kerry (JFK2) and his surrogates on the soft left have scared the other half to death with stories about creeping they’ll vote for him. [2]

Z.'s latest contains echoes of Alexander Cockburn's line of argumentation: “In thirty years we have not seen and heard such hysteria and venom about Nader the saboteur, Nader the facilitator of fascism.” [3]

Urging folks not to be suckered in by some nameless, fear mongering “soft” leftists shrilling fascism, solely aiming to garner votes for Kerry strikes me as a bit flippant. Sifting through the detritus of this long-ranging internet spat in Leftland, let's try to clue in to whom Mickey Z.'s pernicious, Kerry backing, jackboot paranoia pushing culprits might be. Who on the left has been hyping fascism specifically for a Kerry victory here anyhow? (I've yet to locate a statement directly from Kerry or his campaign directly mentioning fascism as it pertains to Bush.)

Let's start with the usual suspects, Democrats. Was it Major Owens of the Congressional Black Caucus?

“I am right on the spot there in Washington, and I tell you our country will either go forward or down the drain into a snake pit of fascism.” [4]

Well, that sounds like the alarmism Z. is talking about.

Buzzflash's Maureen Farrell?

“[W]hile Benito Mussolini said that ‘Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power,’ the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary extended the definition to include the kind of snarling seething ‘patriotism’ we've experienced since Sept. 11, 2001.” [5]

The campy, unabashed pro-Kerry Project for the Old American Century's Lawrence Britt with his 14 identifying characteristics of fascism? [6]

Might it be contained within Rahul Mahajan's cautious phrasing?

“Where the Republicans differ from the centrist Democrats most vividly is right here: the Republican right aspires to fascism. I don't exactly mean fascism, but rather the appropriate historical parallel in a country that is nothing like Germany in the 1930's or Italy in the 1920’s, and in particular one with no mass organized worker’s movement to crush.”

“Because of these differences, the new phenomenon we see emerging looks in detail vastly different from fascism - for example, civil liberties are in practice only slightly restricted, we will vote in November, etc. To compare them with the situation under the Nazis is just silly. The basic principle, however, is strikingly similar, from the creation of ‘Republican science’ to the savage and vicious attacks on anyone who steps out of line -­ and even on those who don’t. Anyway, I’ll call it fascism rather than this term that doesn’t exist.” [7]

I think Mahajan's numerous caveats speak for themselves. He doesn't seem to be out to scare but to discuss.

Could it have been the scholarly Chalmers Johnson?

“If the United States is not checkmated and nuclear war ensues, civilization as we know it will disappear and the United States will go into the history books along with the Huns and the Nazis as a scourge of human life itself.” [8]

Possibly. Johnson publicly endorsed Kerry, erroneously believing Kerry would repeal the USA PATRIOT Act. However, it's unlikely, Mr. Johnson does not seem to be boosting Kerry too much; rather, he seems to be researching and writing informative works. Also, Johnson referred not to Bush, but the US as courting the unsavory historical assessment.

But what about fiery op-ed columnist for The Moscow Times, Chris Floyd, who would send the entire Bush camarilla off to Fallujah and Baghdad?

“Let them take the places of the young men and young women who signed up as soldiers to defend their country or make a better life for themselves — not to become pawns and killers for the Hitlerite ambitions of the blood-soaked fools who threw them into this quagmire.

Yes, Hitlerite ambitions: dreams of global dominance, fetishes of militarism, fantasies of superiority, and the willingness to impose your self-serving vision of ‘universal truth’ — in this case, the rapacious crony capitalism that Bush has officially named ‘the single sustainable model of national success’ — at the barrel of a gun. That’s what lies behind this madness.” [9]

No, when Floyd dropped the “H-bomb” he'd prudently prefaced it thusly:

The way to rectify a crime is not to keep doing it — or in John Kerry’s ludicrous formulations, to keep doing it in some different, “better” way — but simply to stop doing it. The illegal invasion was a crime, the occupation is a crime, and if you would not be a criminal, you must stop committing crimes. [10]

Perhaps the Institute for Public Accuracy honcho Norman Solomon?

“Anyone who was paying close attention to the actions of the Ashcroft Justice Department in the wake of 9/11 has seen that elements of fascism can be implemented in the USA, particularly in times of crisis.” [11]

Hmm….Solomon seems to be Z.'s main target. Z. scornfully referred to Solomon as “Stormin' Norman” [12] for “crusading” against Z.'s presidential preference, Ralph Nader. In all fairness, Solomon's chilling article about fascism's ugly head rearing, whilst acknowledging more its tendency to creep, clearly does not do so with the aim of knocking Nader about.

Maybe Noam Chomsky, who's got an audio lecture titled “Creeping Fascism” and recently damned Kerry with the faintest praise of being a tiny fraction of a percent better than Bush?


Was it the brazen Carolyn Baker?

“I now know that in America, we are not heading into fascism, not about to enter fascism, not on the verge of fascism-we are LIVING UNDER fascism.” [13]

No, nor was it Baker, in the same Counterpunch article where she names the beast, who mercilessly devastated Kerry with this accusatory fusillade:

“While John Kerry is not a neo-conservative nor a co-author of the Project For A New American Century (PNAC), he does espouse global economic domination by the United States. Moreover, on virtually every momentous issue, Kerry is an echo of neo-con madness: He supports the War on Terror, including sending more troops to Iraq; he voted for the Iraq invasion; he voted for the Patriot Act; he states that ‘the cause of Israel must be the cause of America’; he opposes the democratically-elected opponent of U.S. imperialism in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez; he has no problem with the recent U.S. backed coup in Haiti nor the militarization of space.”

What about Walter Brasch's recent comment about the stunning acceptance of the obvious untruth about WMD?

“In Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky point out that the media long ago abrogated their roles of ‘watchdogs’, which the Founding Fathers believed necessary for the American republic to thrive, and have slowly replaced it with their role as unquestioning propagandists for the establishment. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, said if you tell a lie often enough, and with enough conviction, the people will believe it as truth. The Bush administration, aided by an acquiescent media, proved the truth of Goebbels' words.” [14]

Is all of this scaring Americans for Kerry or are some simply making a disquieting historical comparison? It seems, besides a few Democrats, some pretty tough-minded people sounded the fascism tocsin; they also tend not to speak well of Kerry. In fact, most warn against harboring rosy, optimistic illusions about Kerry's proposed militaristic trajectories. One might say it's strikingly similar to Bush's. (As a matter of fact, that's what Bush said himself about Kerry's plan for Iraq: “My opponent says he has a plan; it sounds familiar, because it's called the Bush plan.”) [15]

But, could Mickey Z. mean even me?

I will probably vote for Kerry. I further admit I'm partial to pointing out Bush's barbaric war plan for conquering the entire Middle East with its concomitant control of domestic public opinion might, perhaps, could, possibly and potentially does seem to have a tad bit of a fascist tinge, color, tone or touch. So I'm suspect. No matter, as an anti-imperialist, I won't be whistling Dixie when either A-Team Bush or B-Team Kerry takes a crack at re-upping the ransack of the planet in the name of democracy, Osama bin Laden, mom, WMD, or Apple McFritters. But I've dawdled long enough over Z.'s contribution to the e-rhubarb concerning what the most relevant historical antecedent of contemporary capitalism's essentially savage nature may be.

Do I think the fascist discussion is something one should maybe heed as discussion-worthy? So have I been scared into voting Kerry? Let me be blunt, my personal, ideological irreconcilability with the Kerry/Edwards style mainstream reached its flash point long ago. The presidential campaigning decidedly verified Ralph Nader's caustic observation: Kerry's Bush Lite. Regardless, I ardently wish to see Regular Bush removed from office and sincerely believe straight-shootin' Nader, feisty and full of pluck as he is, has the proverbial snowball's chance in bed with Anne Coulter of winning this election. That said, in default of a palatable political party with any real punch, it appears I have been forced to vote -- less than enthusiastically and against my will -- for Messrs. Kerry and Edwards. This in no way implies my endorsing their imprecatory foreign policy. Nor do I think anyone who wishes to should not vote or campaign for Nader. I think Bush is repulsive and Kerry is the only default option.

Andrew Levine of the Institute for Policy Studies phrased this reasonably in his critique of the Democratic Party platform:

“The Democrats who will come to power, if we are lucky, are every bit as imperialist in their world view as the Republicans are; and, from the mid-eighties until the Iraq war went sour (long after they voted for it and Bush declared it won), they never met a war they didn't like.”

and concludes:

“Lesser evilism is not just about proposing less bad policies; it has more to do with being on the same page. Progressives need to acknowledge this fact and to act on it -- right away. By all means, vote in whatever way you think best. But never should the prudent imperialists and Eisenhower Republicans who would run on this repellent party platform be given a free hand -- not after November, and not now.”  [16]

On the stump, Nader's been lumping the two party platforms together as a single, homogenous Republocratic stratagem to further the interests of corporate power at the expense of the citizenry's. No matter for whom one votes, in this game of Spite and Malice corporate America always wins, the people are screwed and war's on the march. Nader's duopoly analysis is no longer an issue progressives need to hash out. He's correct.

However, let's face facts. Nader's also been reduced to calling not Bush, not Kerry, but -- get this ­­ Michael Moore out for a debate.

Nader states in his challenge:

“Just before the Iraq war the New York Times called the anti-war movement the world’s second super-power. Now, all that the movement has predicted has come to pass in Iraq, yet rather than being empowered by its vindication, the movement has no pulse except one of unconditional surrender to Kerry.” [17]

Which brings us to the more pressing matter of antiwar strategic considerations.

It is uncertain how an international movement against America's imperialist war in Iraq has capitulated to a single American politician, Kerry. Something that is certain is that an international movement is not beholden to and does not endorse American presidential candidates. It's a reactive mass movement against a blatantly unjust war, not an organization.

This movement has almost nothing to do with Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, David Cobb or Bob Avakian. Rather, it does have quite a bit to do with George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleezza Rice. At the moment, for better or worse, it's not a movement for anything; certainly not for any establishment politician. It is anti-war, and so, anti-imperialist, and thus, assuredly anti-Bush and, if he's elected, anti-Kerry.

We are still talking about a political movement.

The real question, as always, is: “What's to do?”

Speaking to some who oppose the war, Tariq Ali has helpfully charted this movement's terrain:

“For the citizens of countries whose governments and leaders have supported the war the priority must be to punish the warmongers, to follow the Spanish example. If Aznar is followed to Valhalla by Berloscuni, Blair and Bush it will be an important victory.

Then we will have to mount a campaign to demand that their successors end the Occupation. The only use of the UN could be as a face-saving device. Nothing else.” [18]

Clearly, these are two different tasks. The first, for Americans, involves a successful imperatorial switchover. That means King John. However, as we're talking about global American imperialism here, it would be the height of theoretical charlatanism and outright political quackery to claim that, given the correlation of social forces, it is possible to change Bush for anyone else at the moment. So yes, pace Vanden Heuvel and company, ABB (anybody but Bush) really does mean NBK (nobody but Kerry). Again, there is little meaningful palliation of the imperialist project involved in this scenario, only simple democratic punishment. If Mr. Bush and his coterie are allowed another term, the implication for citizenry (including America's) is that war for oil, flouting of international law, full spectrum militarism, savaging the US Constitution, public disdain for the UN and boosting jingoism have been condoned; indeed, that we should, in all haste, continue in this crazed parade careening towards Armageddon.

If Bush is reelected, immediate steps must be taken to initiate impeachment proceedings. If it comes to this juncture, witless, left-of-Kerry Democrats will, in all likelihood, be forced to revenge Bill.

The second task Ali has put forward is more demanding. How to orchestrate an end to the Occupation of Iraq? It might begin with public recognition of the political legitimacy of all Iraqi resistance to the American occupation; delineated, for example, in UN General Assembly Resolution 37/43. This might best be affected by mass scale, inexpensive, low-tech, highly clever, and shocking yet tasteful counter-propaganda campaigns (music, stickers, handbills, newspapers, posters, web sites, films, demonstrations, parties, petitions, concerts, boycotts, marches, college radio programs, etc.). 

Absent spontaneous action by the populace at large, who perhaps due to lethargy, long work hours, family problems, prior social engagements, church, bong hit sessions, television programming priorities and other scheduling conflicts cannot rise up on call to fight the power, most of this activity will fall to concerned citizens, organizers, activists, analysts, artists, journalists and other everyday people; the vanguard. Indeed, it very well may be “a long hard slog.” The fact remains that so long as the war grinds on, it exposes the imperialist policy's gory visage. No sunny Madison Avenue marketing makeover or face-lift will change this, neither a change of heads talking. Whether it be the bibliolatrist Bush's rapturously blissful blink or Kerry's bold-faced, Botoxless twinkle, it remains the charge of the left to begin accurately portraying the hideous sight before our eyes: war machines churning out carnage for capital.

Antiwar forces should focus on these attainable goals, not squabble over whether or not fascism is one of our buzzwords or a plot hatched by Democrats to divide us.

Theo Papathanasis lives in Greece and can be reached at:


[1] Mickey Z., "From ABB (anyone but Bush) to ON (only Nader)."

[2] Mickey Z., "The Only Thing We Have To Fear . . .", Dissident Voice, October 5, 2004.

[3] Alexander Cockburn, "The uproar over Nader," The Anderson Valley Advertiser, March 3, 2004.

[4] Marc Morano,, "Bush Leading America Into 'Snake Pit of Fascism,' Congressman Says," September 2, 2004

[5] Maureen Farrell, "When Fascism Comes to America," September 21, 2004.


[7] Rahul Mahajan, "Andrew Card and Fascism," September 13, 2004.

[8] Chalmers Johnson, interview.

[9] Chris Floyd, "The crack-up," The Moscow Times, April 16, 2004.

[10] ibid.

[11] Norman Solomon, "The News' Media's Political F-Word," Dissident Voice, June 27, 2004. Soloman's piece is chock full of yucky observations about the fascism's fashionability.

[12] Mickey Z., "Mistake Prone: John Kerry as a 'Pragmatic Choice'," Dissident Voice, February 2, 2004.

[13] Carolyn Baker, "'Ya Get What Ya Settle For': Why I Will Not Vote in 2004,", May 8/9, 2004.

[14] Walter Brasch, "The Only Ones Who Believe Saddam Had WMDs are Bush, Cheney ... and 40 Percent of All Americans: The Truth of Joseph Goebbels,", October 11, 2004.

[15] President George W. Bush, debate with Senator John Kerry, St. Louis, MO, October 8, 2004.



[18] Tariq Ali,, April 10, 2004.