Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Tea Party and the Fascist Impulse

True, people toss around the term fascism without care. Hopefully this post isn't another such case.

An essay, Global Capitalism versus Global Community, by Walden Bello, begins with some historical background. He talks about unbridled capitalism's rise "in what is now known as the first age of globalization that spanned the ninteenth century and ended with World War I in 1914." It included the late 1800s Robber Barron era.

This "first age of globalization" saw "the emergence of sharp disparities in the distribution of income and assets." Bello then notes that this "provoked a countervailing push from society, especially the lower and middle classes", and this is where my insight begins.

At first I didn't understand why he didn't define the "first age" to continue through the 1920s to the Great Crash. Then I realized that it's central to my insight.

We on the left like to think of the "countervailing push" to re-balancing the inequities caused by unfettered capitalism to be solely our domain; the little people reasserting their say in the socio-economic system, asserting public freedom over excessive private freedom. But Bellos reminded me that this isn't the way it really works.

... not all of the responses to globalization were progressive. For example, fascism, which Karl Polanyi defined as "the reform of the market economy achieved at the price of the extirpation of all democratic institutions," was also part of this countervailing drive, one that hijacked the search for community in the service of reaction, counterrevolution and racism.

Yes. The "first age of globalization" does find a break-point at World War I, after which Hitler found a desperate populace that was itself hijacked in his service.

It's this seam of social orientation that we find the impulse for the Tea Party movement. And they are following the likes of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Tom Delay, all of whom are very pro-corporation. It now makes more sense, particularly when one considers other definitions of fascism, like this one by FDR:

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power." - Franklin D. Roosevelt


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