The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Failure Is the Precondition for Fascism



Well, not all the time, but it is one of the necessary preconditions.

More broadly, when the old regime has failed (lost a war, bungled the economy), then people are willing to try something else. This “something else” may mean electing someone like FDR. It may be allowing someone like Stalin or Hitler to rise to power. It may be opting to try Communism. It may be electing someone as mild as Corbyn.

Or it may take the form of someone like Trump or Cruz.

Unhappiness occurs during decline.

Decline. The US economy has been lousy for most people for decades. Since somewhere between 1968 and 1980. 1968 was the peak of wages for working class white males, for example. You are surprised they are unhappy? They have been in decline for almost 40 years.

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Women’s wages were rising through much of the period. They might be less than men’s, but they were rising.

Happiness is predicated on doing better than in the past. It doesn’t have to better by much, it just has to be better.

Since 2008, the economy, for the majority of the population (over 80 percent, over 90 percent by some calculations), has been bad. They have lost income. Their houses are worth less. They are less likely to be employed, much less have that lesser job.

They are ripe for fascism.

They are ripe for any sort of radical change offered by anyone who doesn’t parse; doesn’t feel, like one of the current set of elites. Trump does not, Cruz does not, Sanders does not. In Britain, where the situation is similar, Corbyn does not.

This is the beginning of the time of changes. Some countries will choose well, others will not, but the issues of how and by whom countries are run is in play–in a way it has not been in my lifetime.


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  1. Robert

    I haven’t much to add save to say something is happening, and I fear for the future of those younger than myself, especially here in the USA. Sadly I bet on the USA making the very worst decisions, leading to something that will make the US Civil War (ironic that this state of affairs will largely come about due to a sort of revival of Neo-Confederate thought that’s been pushed by the likes of Cruz and the Kochs and the JBS types before them for at least half a century) and the Thirty Years War seem like a holiday on the French Riviera.

  2. Bruce Wilder

    Actual, historical fascism was a product not just of failure, but of collapse. The older institutional structures of social and political order — many of them still bearing marks of feudalism after decades of resistance to modernity — collapsed, leaving people generally feeling lost, without bearings, without rootedness or clear expectations.

    The effort to find sufficient guidance in democratic deliberation failed. That was a secondary failure, though more proximate to the genesis of fascism. First came the collapse of Empire in the catastrophe of WWI, then the democratic liberal effort to govern, an effort that failed under contest from reactionary forces and a general centrifugal tendency for opinion to fragment.

    The fascism of the interwar period offered people not just the promise of competent authority, but total immersion in political participation, personal identity tied to collective action.

    The collapse of the post-WWII order seems imminent and the place of wage earners in 21st century modernity is doubtful. But, Trump is not offering political immersion; he is a character on teevee — his world is an image, an entertainment. He has no organization. Cruz does have an organization and offers immersion for Christian insiders.

    The collapse is on-going, but has not struck home for the political majority. There remains a complacent salaried segment, comforted by modest wealth, enjoying their privileged place in the corporate economy, who fear collapse, who fear revolution or just the destabilizing effect of reform. They too may embrace authoritarianism, but from different motives. Beware.

  3. EverythingsJake


  4. My wife keeps saying that this country is not sufficiently stupid to elect any of the Republicans who are running. I point out that if the economy declines this year enough that the governing class (which includes the media) cannot continue to conceal the sorry economic state of the working class then the Republican Party could run a half-trained monkey for president and defeat any Democrat.

  5. It also takes delusional elites. The German conservatives thought they could control Hitler. Just like US-American Republican elites thought they could control the Tea Party.

  6. Hvd

    Well, actually, it didn’t turn out too badly for the German elites did it? Fascism of this sort is the elites answer to the terror (French style).

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