It is often politically irrational to make accusations of fascism towards a person or group of people. Once the accusation is made, all attempt at moderation is lost in a mud-slinging match that no-one wins. That does not mean that we should not broach the subject. It is fair to compare the political and social implications of an individual or groups ideology to those of totalitarian, authoritarian or absolutist states. If we have no yardstick by which to measure some phenomena, much of what we understand is meaningless.
My reasoning in doing a comparison between the policies of the current conservative movement in the United States and those in totalitarian regimes is not to win political points. Rather, I am concerned that the rush to the right, to appear more conservative than everyone else, will have profound consequences for the citizens of this country, and if left unchecked could have disastrous consequences for the life and liberty of people here, and abroad.
I grew up in a country that was considered right wing and extremist in its politics. It became an international pariah until it was forced to change its ways. Today, South Africa is again part of the international polity of nations. When I was growing up, it was a harsh, unforgiving nation that targeted its citizens, censored the press and imposed religiosity on everyone.
The comparison between South African parties like the Nationalists, the Conservatives, and the Republicans here in the United States is disturbing to say the least, and quite frightening given the lessons of history.
The similarities are quite clear; religion often plays an important role in any state tending towards fascism or right-wing extremism. This religiosity is imposed on schoolchildren who are forced to attend religious classes, or pray at school functions. While this is not yet true in the United States, conservatives are pushing in that direction. In a fascist state, there is an overt cooperation between the church hierarchy and the state.
There is also undue influence by the wealthy and corporations that play a increasingly more influential role in the fascist state. The voice of the people is no longer heard over the hubbub introduced by business and the Church. With judicial decisions like Citizens United, corporations will play an ever more important role in deciding who governs this country.
Authoritarian states also target people with alternative sexual lifestyles, usually gays and lesbians. Their lifestyles are seen as immoral and unnatural, and any thought of allowing civil union or marriage within the gay community is often punished under criminal statutes. With conservatives there is a strong movement towards criminalizing homosexuality.
Extreme right-wing states use immigrants as a cause of economic or social strife, blaming them for political instability, loss of jobs, immorality or loss of culture. The National Socialists in Germany successfully blamed immigrants or those that were different for the ills of the country, just as conservatives do in Arizona, Alabama, Texas and many Southern states.
There are other methods used by extremists on the right. Job reservation was common in South Africa, as it was in Germany. Jews in Germany were not allowed to work in certain professions, as were blacks in South Africa. In the United States, it is migrant workers that are targeted, forbidden from working, renting an apartment, obtaining a drivers license or obtaining any form of state assistance.
As in South Africa, Republicans are generally all-white, with few exceptions. The same attitude prevailed in Germany with a focus on the Germanic people, and marginalizing Jews, Roma and Slavs. While this attitude is not overt in the United States, it is telling that Republicans appeal to whites rather than blacks or Hispanics.
There are some aspects of fascism that we do not yet see in the United States, but it is distinctly possible that we will see a continual push towards those principles. Authoritarianism seldom manifests in precisely the same way, but the intent is always the same, to remove peoples civil liberties, destroy democratic rights, and classify people according to their social status, among other things.
The frightening thing is the strong move towards some form of one-party state, with an unholy alliance between business, the church and the state. Let us hope that the people of the United States see reason and reverse the swing to the right.
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