No. 86, Sept. 7-13, 2000

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On democracy and fascism

By David Lethbridge

In “Fascism and Social Revolution,” R. Palme Dutt’s classic 1934 text on the development of fascism in Europe, the interconnections between imperialism, fascism and social democracy are clearly delineated. Dutt’s analysis has long been neglected, primarily because it was overshadowed by the necessity of building a popular front with social democrats and others to combat fascism during the second World War.

But what Dutt demonstrated, through one concrete example after another, was that social democracy could co-exist with the earlier phases of fascism, and that social democracy could pave the way for the development of fascist trends within the imperialist state.

In short, Dutt exposed, in terms of Leninist dialectics, the heart of the principal contradiction of contemporary bourgeois society: the unity and interpenetration of the apparent opposites of fascism and social democracy. Within this uneasy contradiction, the primary aspect of the contradiction was the rise of fascism over social democracy.

At a different and more complex level, the same contradictions are evident within the ruling circles of the USA, particularly in their manifestation in the Gore-Lieberman forces of the Democratic Party.

In Gore’s recent nomination speech to the Democratic National Convention, social democratic rhetoric and policy proposals were given a high priority. Gore spoke of ending racial profiling and of supporting affirmative action. He proposed measures to bring about universal child care, to advance health reform, to revitalize and rebuild education, to protect social security and pensions, to increase funding for mental health and for scientific research into improved vaccines. He spoke of increased environmental protection, and “free but fair” trade.

What Gore did not speak about, however, was the increased US militarism abroad - the fascistic policy of deliberately starving Iraqi civilians, the preparations for war against the Colombian people, the continuing blockade against Cuba. Nor did he speak of the increasing repression within the US itself -- the privatization of prisons, the supermax prison system, the criminalization of millions of American minorities, and the racist and class-oppressive death penalty. Only once did Gore deviate from the litany of social democratic promises, and that was to announce his intention of adding 50,000 more police on top of Clinton’s previous mobilization of 100,000.

In all of this, social democracy was playing its classic role of preventing revolution at home by allowing the working class to benefit from imperialism and militarism abroad.

But perhaps the most demagogic and cynical act of the Democratic Party was its elevation of Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman to the position of Democratic nominee for Vice-President. Lieberman’s nomination was presented as a historic event, as a victory over racism, and as an embodiment of the civil rights struggle. The announcement was made as an example of heroism and courage on the part of Gore and Lieberman. Would there be an antisemitic backlash? Was America ready for a Jewish Vice-President? There were even subtle indicators that to oppose the Lieberman nomination was to give evidence of a covert or even unconscious antisemitism.

In presenting the nomination through the distorting lens of religion and civil rights, Lieberman’s policy record was effectively eclipsed. Lieberman’s religion is an entirely personal matter and of no essential interest. What needs to be examined, and then combated, is the deeply reactionary nature of his politics.

Since Lieberman’s election to the Senate in 1988, he has been a close ally of anti-revolutionary Cuban exiles in Florida. He has repeatedly voted to toughen the embargo against Cuba, voting for the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act. In the growing debate on whether to relax the embargo to permit at least the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, Lieberman voted in June against a proposal to create a national commission to review US policy.

Disgustingly, and in opposition to the majority of the American people, Lieberman joined with Republicans in demanding that US Attorney General Janet Reno delay the return to Cuba, and to his father, of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez, the shipwrecked boy kidnapped by distant Miami relatives. Not coincidentally, Lieberman was the top recipient of campaign contributions from the Cuban American National Foundation this year. CANF spokesperson Ninoska Perez brags that Lieberman is a friend of Jorge Mas Canosa, the organization’s founder. According to Cuban authorities, Canosa masterminded a 1966 mission, using ex-Cuban CIA agents, to assassinate Castro, and was involved in the 1980s and 1990s in a number of covert actions.

Lieberman is not only a virulent anti-Communist, he is an advocate of the most vicious militarism. As the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Acquisitions and Technology, he gave a speech on 27 February 1998 in which he said, “There is simply, sadly, not a large enough defense support group in Congress for substantial increases in the defense budget. Nor is there a strong enough public constituency.” In that same speech, he called for a bigger military budget, in part for “space weaponization.”

Not only was Lieberman one of the few Democrats to initially support the Gulf War in 1991, he also was the co-sponsor on 25 March 1999 for legislation to fund the arming of the “Kosovo military forces” --the terrorist heroin-traffickers known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Lieberman has been a leading advocate of US intervention in the Balkans and has claimed, quite falsely as the facts demonstrate, that Yugoslav president Milosevic was engaged in “genocide.”

Even more alarmingly, on a FOX News Sunday report of May 1999, Lieberman went on record as saying that the purpose of the US bombing of Yugoslavia was to “bring the war in Kosovo home to the people, the citizens of Belgrade, so that they pressure Milosevic to break.” Military attacks against civilians are expressly prohibited by the Geneva Convention, and constitute a war crime, a fact which Lieberman certainly knew but which deterred him not at all.

Lieberman also has extensive ties to the religious right and their reactionary social policies. He has supported school voucher systems which would use public tax dollars to fund parental choice for religious schools. He has voted for a bill which denies federal recognition of gay marriages. He is a co-founder of “Empower America,” a group which includes religious right crusader William Bennett, and other religious conservatives who campaign for “morality” in Hollywood and in the music industry.

Lieberman is a strong proponent for what has been called “faith-based partnership,” or “charitable choice,” and which is essentially a network of programs combining tax credits and government grants to promote the entry of organized religion into the field of social services. He has voted for legislation which overhauls the welfare system to give state governments the power to farm out social welfare administration contracts to religious groups. Civil libertarians, socialists, and others concerned that the separation between church and state is being seriously eroded have been effectively ignored by Lieberman and his friends in the religious right. Directly influenced by the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition movements, Lieberman’s vision involves a dangerous reassertion of religious institutions into social and political life.

Gore and Lieberman are fond of posturing their religiosity. Their speeches at the Democratic National Convention were repeatedly peppered with the now overfamiliar phrase “family values.” But these “family values,” so dear to their hearts, apparently do not extend to the hundreds of thousands of dead or maimed Iraqi children and Yugoslav citizens, nor to Cubans suffering under the US embargo, nor to those rotting on death rows across the US.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Lenin made the point that monopoly capitalism in the period of imperialism would always lead to reactionary tendencies at the level of politics and ideology. That truth has certainly come home to roost in the US elections 100 years later.

What the Gore-Lieberman ticket offers to its traditional constituencies of trade unionists, African-Americans, and left-liberals, is the explosive contradiction of social democratic policy indissolubly linked to such fascist state tendencies as militarism, anti-communism, police repression, and religious social conservatism.

Democratic voters have been forced into the position where if they want even the ghost of social democracy they must simultaneously embrace the beast of social fascism. Republican voters, on the other hand, just get the beast.

Source: The Bethune Institute for Anti-Fascist Studies


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