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Our Times: Fascism Isn’t Looming

Either Mussolini or my high school civics teacher defined fascism as “government, business and labor working together in the interests of business.” By this definition fascism isn’t looming in the US, fascism is here, having arrived soon after World War Two ended. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 outlawed wildcat strikes and secondary boycotts, allowed states to ban union shops, required union leaders to sign loyalty oaths. Communists were targeted but it was the New Deal that was being rolled back. For decades we’ve had Fascism Lite for most of the white folks at home, while The Beast showed its murderous face in Guatemala and the Congo and Vietnam and wherever people were trying to free themselves from imperialist exploitation.

“The U.S. did not defeat fascism in WWII, it discretely internationalized it,” said the philosopher Gabriel Rockhill. Chris Hedges quoted him and amplified the point in a recent Substack essay: 

“After World War II the U.S., U.K. and other Western governments collaborated with hundreds of former Nazis and Japanese war criminals, who they integrated into western intelligence services, as well as fascist regimes such as those in Spain and Portugal. They supported right-wing anti-communist forces in Greece during its civil war in 1946 to 1949, and then backed a right-wing military coup in 1967. NATO also had a secret policy of operating fascist terrorist groups. Operation Gladio, as the BBC detailed in a now-forgotten investigative series, created ’secret armies,’ networks of illegal stay-behind soldiers, who would remain behind enemy lines if the Soviet Union made a military move into Europe. In actuality, the “secret armies” carried-out assassinations, bombings, massacres and false flag terror attacks against leftists, trade unionists and others throughout Europe.”

Today the US intelligentsia watches with frightened fascination as ancouth fascist faction – with an ostensibly isolationist outlook – prepares to take power by suppressing the vote and getting the US Supreme Court to enable state legislatures to elect the President. “The slow-motion coup” is decried by Mark Danner in a slow-motion New York Review of Books essay. Vanity Fair is snappier: “Embracing the ‘precinct strategy’ promoted by Steve Bannon, the GOP is reportedly preparing to sow chaos in the 2022 election by creating an ‘army’ of poll workers and Republican lawyers to challenge voters in Democratic precincts. According to recordings obtained by Politico, the Republican National Committee has been recruiting and training poll watchers to contest votes and building a network of party-friendly attorneys to help them.”

Adam Liptak of the Times reports that “the Conference of Chief Justices, a group representing the top state judicial officers in the nation, has decided to file a brief in the US Supreme Court in a politically charged election-law case. The brief urged the court to reject a legal theory pressed by Republicans [that would] radically reshape how federal elections are conducted by giving state lawmakers independent authority, not subject to review by state courts, to set election rules in conflict with state constitutions.”

Four SCOTUS Justices have already indicated support for the so-called “independent state legislature” theory of election law. Chief Justice John Roberts appears to be the swing vote. 

Liptak of the Times, like his longtime predecessor Linda Greenhouse, is a very clear explainer of court cases and their political context. About the crucial upcoming case he writes, “The case, Moore v. Harper, No. 21-1271, will be argued in the coming months. It concerns a congressional voting map drawn by the North Carolina Legislature favoring Republicans that was rejected as a partisan gerrymander by the state’s Supreme Court. Republican lawmakers seeking to restore the legislative map argued that the state court had been powerless to act.

“The independent state legislature theory is based on a literal reading of two similar provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The one at issue in the North Carolina case, the Elections Clause, says: ‘The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.’

“That means, North Carolina Republicans argued, that state legislatures have sole responsibility among state institutions for drawing congressional districts and that state courts have no role to play in applying their states’ constitutions.

“The North Carolina Supreme Court rejected that argument, saying that was ‘repugnant to the sovereignty of states, the authority of state constitutions and the independence of state courts, and would produce absurd and dangerous consequences.’

“Texas and a dozen other states led by Republicans filed a brief supporting the North Carolina lawmakers. ‘The Elections Clause forbids state courts from usurping state legislatures’ districting authority,’ it said.”

Nathan Hecht, the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, told Liptak, that the Supreme Court decision could trigger an array of election challenges in federal courts: ”’The Constitution’s language is very broad about time, place and manner of elections,’ he said. ‘So that’s mail-in ballots, what it takes to register, what ID you have to show, how late the polls are open, how the ballots are counted, who gets to sit and watch when they do. The state courts get scores of these cases in virtually every election’.”

Let’s not forget that many current Republican party honchos –including John Roberts– made their bones in 2000 by physically intimidating the vote counters in Miami. This account from Jonathan Toobin’s book Too Close to Call seems highly relevant today:

“After the Florida Supreme Court ruling the Bush legal team in Miami held an outraged vigil deep into the night at its Wyndham hotel court headquarters. For the first time since Election Day, it now looked as if Gore might win the presidency. This news changed the political and emotional climate all over the state, but especially in Miami.

“In the two weeks since the election, partisans from around the country had been converging on Florida. Generally, the migratory patterns reflected the candidates priorities in the recount. Ron Klain [Gore’s chief-of-staff] had said on the first flight to Tallahassee, “We need lawyers.” So the Democrats recruited many attorneys, who took time off from their jobs and volunteered to take affidavits, organize court cases, and do whatever was necessary. At Gore’s express directive, however, the shock troops of the Democratic Party civil rights, union and other activists were instructed to stay away. The vice president saw the recount as a legal, not political, process.

“Republicans had plenty of lawyers too, of course, but they also had a pipeline of operatives heading south, conforming with the Bush strategy of using protests as well as litigation to send this message. Some of the people arriving in Florida were well-known, like Roger Stone, but also in the group were many young and determined congressional aides who had come to Washington since the House went Republican in 1994. Nearly 100 of them made their way to the Clark center shortly after dawn on Wednesday...”

Is there a similar tactical disparity in 2022? Will the lame-ass Democratic National Committee duke it out in court and neglect the nitty-gritty fight for poll watchers and vote counters and county sheriffs?

Clouds of Secrecy

Leonard Cole died at 89–a New Jersey dentist who, the Times obit said, “became an expert on biological weapons and chronicled in troubling detail a secret US Army program that turned millions of Americans into unwitting germ-warfare guinea pigs in the 1950s and ‘60s.” The Army program “involved releasing ostensibly harmless bacterial and chemical agents in the New York City subway, over the skies of San Francisco and in dozens of other places to test the country’s vulnerability to biological and chemical attacks.

Cole’s book, Clouds of Secrecy, was “an in-depth examination of the Army program, which encompassed 239 open-air tests over 20 years. Using inert chemicals and bacteria that researchers believed were harmless.” He focused on “a September 1950 test in which a military vessel cruising the San Francisco coast blanketed the city with an aerosol cocktail that contained the bacterium Serratia marcescens.

“Before long, about a dozen people with similar symptoms had checked in to a hospital in the city. The diagnosis was a rare pneumonia caused by bacteria believed by doctors there to be Serratia marcescens. One patient died... The Army denied that Mr. Nevin’s death and the other hospitalizations were linked to its spraying.” Nevin’s family sued and lost. “But military officials acknowledged separately that contemporaneous monitoring of people who had been exposed to its tests was not part of the program.”

Lest readers conclude that Dr. Cole was unambiguously a friend to mankind, the Times obit reminds us: “Some critics said that ‘Clouds of Secrecy’ exaggerated the risks of the testing program, and that Dr. Cole had not adequately accounted for the military’s need to conduct such experiments in the Cold War era.”

(Jesus died for your sins and Fred Gardner reads the NY Times every day so you don’t have to.)


  1. Bruce McEwen October 6, 2022

    Dismally great piece, Fred Gardner — fits hand-in-glove w/ the equally dismal Barsamian/Chomsky bit in today’s CounterPunch!

    Expect to see James Marmon and Al Kubanis going around knocking over register-to-vote tables around the county!

  2. George Hollister October 6, 2022

    “government, business and labor working together in the interests of business.”

    More accurately stated, “business, and labor working together in the interests of the state”. A central government dictatorship, as we see in Russia, and China, and we saw with Hitler, and Mussolini is a fundamental requirement of fascism. Without absolute central government power, there is no fascist state. So ask yourself, who are those in favor of concentrating power in Washington? Who are opposed to it? Those opposed to it can not be fascists.

  3. George Hollister October 6, 2022

    From The Doctrine of Fascism, by Benito Mussolini:

    “The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State. Instead of directing the game and guiding the material and moral progress of the community, the liberal State restricts its activities to recording results. The Fascist State is wide awake and has a will of its own. For this reason it can be described as “ethica.”

    There are many references in this document regarding the necessary, absolute power of the state. Mussolini’s reference to the “liberal State” is a reference to liberal democracy. Check it out, it’s only 10 pages long. There is nothing in there about business having any power, except under the direction of the state.

  4. Fred Gardner October 8, 2022

    I guess it was my 9th grade teacher, not Musso, whose definition stuck with me.
    Obviously when the fascists took power they glorified the state. But what about when Musso was transitioning from lefty journalist to Il Duce c. 1920? He took the party’s name from fascia, meaning a bundle of sticks, right? What made up the bundle if not labor, business and government? And the sheath was the Fascist Party. Maybe they’re both right. –Mussoiini and Mr. Leicester.

    • George Hollister October 9, 2022

      Fundamental to Fascism, as Mussolini states, and as we have always seen is absolute state control. State control necessarily means control of the economy. The bundle of sticks is subservient to the absolute power of the state. Some in the bundle do better than others, some do much better, but none are free. So the corporate heads in a Fascist state live opulent life styles, but they are dogs on a government leash. Their lives exist at the whims of the dictator. We see this with Russia, and China today. It’s not ironic that the same was seen in Communist states. Only it was the Communist economic and military managers who led opulent lifestyles, not corporate oligarchs.

      So I go back to the question, who in our society is advocating for central government control, and who is opposing it? Central government control is fundamental to the Fascist state. People who oppose central government control can’t be Fascist. And that includes supporters of our former Lone Ranger president, Donald Trump.

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