Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Most Unlikely Ally

Joseph Stalin's Connection
to Fascism in America

In the usual way that Americans have been taught to view history Joseph Stalin was an unrepentant monster whose Communist government suppressed and murdered its own citizens, denying them their rights and imprisoning them in cruel and inhuman gulags for the slightest act of disagreement with his regime.

As I have written before on my old blog, Friendly Neighbour, Stalin was, even after his death, an unwitting ally of far-right forces within the American system.
Stalin, while a valiant ally in the war, stands out as one of history's biggest meanest bastards. Estimates of the number of Soviet citizens killed by Stalin range as high as 20 Million. Most died by starvation as the result of disastrous agricultural policies that removed subsistence farmers from their land in misguided collectivization efforts. Many more died as a result of Stalin's extreme paranoia, taken out and shot or tortured to death in the infamous gulags. Stalin was evil.

...[I]n the post-war era, a great lie was sold to the American people, one I believe a vast majority of Americans still believe today. That lie was a great propaganda coup, providing the right wing with a magic hammer with which to beat its enemies mercilessly. That lie led to the cold war. That lie was that the evils of Stalin's Soviet Union were somehow the inevitable result of Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Which anyone even passingly familiar with socialist doctrine can tell you is absurd.
A simple comparison that clarifies the effects of this great lie is this; The Red Scare was to post-war America as International Jewry was to Nazi Germany. The great threat that justifies all excesses. The great brush to paint all our enemies. The Red Scare.
My point was and remains that it wasn't Marxist doctrine that caused Stalin to be a megalomaniac, it was his paranoia and his embrace of totalitarian tactics to eliminate any threat to his rule. The great purges carried out in the 1930s are but one case in point.

The common belief that the cold war was a struggle between western democracy and Soviet Communism was a great lie. For one thing Soviet Communism didn't fit the egalitarian model at all. There was a privileged class of party members, military officers and secret policemen who lacked for little, lived in Dachas, rode around in chauffeur-driven hand-built automobiles and feared the peasantry no less than did their czarist predecessors. So Communism in the Soviet Union was a lie. But why on earth would the western world go along with that lie, even exaggerate it when it would have been much easier to call Stalin and his successors out for their hypocrisy?
“A lie would make no sense,
unless the truth were felt to be dangerous.”
- Carl G. Jung -
The simple answer to this is that this Soviet lie served the purposes of the corporatists to a tee to keep up the idea that the Soviet Union represented the inevitable outcome of Marxism, that is that it led to totalitarian regimes like that of Stalin. Which may have some truth to it, but it is simply astonishing how quickly the idea was extended to include not only Communists, but later 'Communist sympathizers', aka 'Pinkos' (not quite 'Red' in other words,) trade unionists, and later anyone who had the audacity to consider themselves anywhere to the left of center. Indeed, by the time Ronald Reagan ran for office they were using a new rhetorical technique - they began alluding to liberalism as 'the L word,' giving the impression that it was something so obscene that it couldn't be talked about in polite company.

Another device was in play - the ratchet effect. As this unrelenting stream of vitriol (based on absolutely nothing by the way) was directed on anyone to the left of center, inevitably people started moving out of the line of fire. They stopped calling themselves liberals even if they were by any definition of the word. They now self-identify as progressives or even moderate conservatives. The result of that was that the line that defined where 'left of center' was also moved to the right. So, in the next iteration (or turn of the ratchet in my analogy) people who had previously been to the right of center were called out, and some of them moved across the new 'middle' line - to end up on what used to be the far right. You can still see this process in effect anytime someone like Rush Limbaugh points to someone who is really quite moderate in their position and describes them as being from, not just the left, but the far left. Conversely, the term far right is almost never used in the United States. Which should give people cause for concern. The real outcome of this is class warfare in America with only the upper class having declared or holding any weapons.
"Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie.
In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people,
this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country.

To ignore that--not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor--is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power...

...If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there--the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"--do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth.
Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars."

Just look at how successful this undeclared class warfare has been. The Republicans opposed Social Security when it was first introduced on the grounds that it led to the 'slippery slope towards communism.' The fact that it helped the vast majority of Americans survive was not an effective counterargument in their narrow rightwing view. And they are STILL trying to dismantle the most successful program in the country's history. They have successfully blocked any form of universal health care with the same slippery slope canard. "OOOH - it might lead to communism. Slippery slope - ooga booga. Be very, very afraid." So you see how the ghost of the long dead Joseph Stalin is still acting as an ally to Corporate Fascist America. The frickin' ownership society they envisage can hardly be differentiated from a slave state.

It's really tragic that a large number of working class Americans continue to vote against their own interests for two reasons. The first is that they are afraid of being labeled 'far left' by the flying monkey brigade of Limbaugh and his putrid ilk. The second is that they cling to the myth of the American dream. They hope that somehow, against all odds, they will pass through that velvet curtain into first class, and they don't want to piss in the complimentary champagne before they get to stretch out in their generous double wide reclining seats.

The fact is, social mobility (the likelihood that you will end up in a different income bracket than your parents) is MUCH less in the US than it is in the rest of the western industrialized world. And as everybody knows, the gap between rich and poor is opening up into an absolute chasm that you will never cross if you are currently living modestly.
"In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors,
since all men are equal,
but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors,
for, from the time of Jefferson onward,
the doctrine that all men are equal
applies only upwards, not downwards."
-- Bertrand Russell --
I will further cannibalize my old post by plagiarizing it's close (I hope the author doesn't go after me.)
In the opening pages of Tom Clancy's Patriot Games the hero, Jack Ryan is visiting London. Unfamiliar with the English practice of driving on the left side of the road he checks to the left, where he expects traffic, then steps out onto the road and is nearly killed by a bus coming from the right. It seems to me a fitting image of what has happened to the US in the last 7 or 8 decades. While paranoically obsessing about a perceived threat from the left, America has left itself wide open for a takeover from the corporate right.
To tie this in to what's happening today, one needs only this quote from a pre-eminent veteran of the cold war.
"Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear-kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor-with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it."
-- General Douglas MacArthur --
A chillingly familiar theme in the post 9/11 America. It's hard not to see how the fear-mongering inspired by Stalin is just like that inspired by Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. Stalin was of course the first bogie man bent on world domination and in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Which brings me to another pithy and pertinent quote.
"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely
or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear"
-- Bertrand Russell --

This post was written to set the table for a series of posts I intend to do under the heading of The History of Fascism in America. (THOFIA) It should fit in well with those of you who are already Naomi Wolf fans. It might rub some of you the wrong way if you believe the fascist influence to have begun with George W. Bush, his father, or even his grandfather. But that cannot be avoided.
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
-- George Orwell --
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