American Fascism

Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol 22, issue 2, 1999 contains a review by Paul de Armond titled A Time for New Beginnings, in which he examines the history of ideas motivating the fascist movement in the United States. In this article, de Armond locates Wise Use and Christian Patriots within that movement. In his view, a study of the American far right was overdue, and he notes the U.S. Taxpayers Party was a merger of the Christian Right with Christian-Patriot white supremacists, that emerged as an important fusion party of the extreme right during the militia organizing drive of 1994. As Paul observes, USTP’s constitutionalist ideology, choice of phrases and catalogue of enemies provides targets for its “brigades”, much like the Tea Party does today.

Rather than toss political labels around, de Armond urged a behavioral definition of fascism, such as the Reagan administration’s use of the American extreme right to organize paramilitary action in Central America. He reminds readers that it was state and local governments that used armed right-wing paramilitaries like the Klan to attack civil rights activists, and that there is a continuity of the American paramilitary right that includes the Klan, Minutemen, Aryan Nations, Militia of Montana, Covenant Sword and Arm of the Lord.

With each successive wave of violence, notes Paul, the expressions of establishment surprise have become a predictable ritual, and that “It is only in the case of the most horrifying or politically inflammatory violence that significant law enforcement resources have been committed.” As de Armond observes, there have been three waves of right-wing militia organizing since the 1960s, which one can get more detail about in his report Racist Origins of Border Militias.

In his end notes, Paul says, “Fascism is a form of social change as a movement and a form of social institution as an establishment. It is neither a political ideology, a religion, nor a mental illness, though it manifests itself in all these forms. It is a rationalization of theft, just as statism is a rationalization of power, capitalism is a rationalization of acquisition, and sociopathy is a rationalization of the irrational. Anti-fascism is a form of informational public health, related to epidemiology.”

There are several books by our colleagues in the Public Good Project Bookstore that elaborate on parts of his analysis, but I figured this might suffice for an introduction.

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