Hitler has imposed a new categorical imperative upon unfree humanity: to arrange our thinking and conduct, so that Auschwitz never repeats itself, so that nothing similar ever happen again.
Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Part Three, III, §2, Redmond translation (altered)
‘When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross’, goes an oft-quoted line of uncertain origin.
‘Words of a Dictator’, Guardian, 2 June 2020
Ivana Trump told her lawyer Michael Kennedy that from time to time her husband reads a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed.
Fascism is rising across the world – in Europe, in the United States and perhaps especially in India. One defining trait of Fascism is authoritarianism. Indeed Fascists tend to make cults of their leaders. Other central traits of Fascism are nationalism, racism, and irrationalism (i.e. hatred of rationality). At its worst, Fascism is genocidal. Fascists gain power not only through violence and intimidation but also by destroying or co-opting the institutions – parliaments, constitutions, the law – that would restrain them. Another means is popularity. A principal way Fascism becomes popular is by scapegoating: real grievances are attributed to an enemy whose guilt is more or less totally imaginary. Unrestrained capitalism (perhaps more accurately: a capitalism restrained only in the service of the rich) supplies many exploitable grievances. Also, it promotes the ignorance and irrationality that helps Fascists, and proto-Fascists, to exploit the grievances. It does so by more or less directly stunting people through work and through lack of work but also through the media and via what it makes of education. Another way in which capitalism promotes ignorance and irrationality, especially as Fascism looms, is by demonising the elite or rather more precisely, though somewhat covertly, the educated (i.e., roughly, the sort of people who try to tell you what I am telling you here).
Most of the foregoing is fairly obvious. Evidently much more could be said. Generations of thinkers spanning many fields have explored the details. In short, though, Fascism is a con and that con has a setup. I have tried to describe the setup – the circumstances that make Fascism possible and even near-inevitable – above. To summarise them: unrestrained capitalism becomes Fascism.
Addition: Trump has now called his secret service the ‘SS’; used a Nazi symbol (the inverted red triangle) in an advertisement; tear-gassed peaceful protestors, including clergy who worked at the church he was using for a photo-opportunity; and tried to use the army to quell the Black Lives Matter protests. Then there is the matter of the place and timing of his latest Hitler-style rally and the fact that attendees will catch coronavirus. And his lies seem to become ever more frequent and dangerous. And he is trying to rig the election. To think I called him a Fascist!