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As I See It with Columnist Jon Huer: Democracy in America, Capitalist or Fascist? – The Recorder

JON HUER
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Democrats keep telling us that our “liberal democracy” is threatened by Trump and his GOP followers, who might envision a form of “Constitutional Fascism” to replace liberal democracy. What most people don’t understand is that the “liberal” in “liberal democracy” logically and historically includes Capitalism as part of the “liberty.”
To be liberal in America is to accept Capitalism as part of our liberty to engage in “free enterprise.” You cannot support political liberty without supporting economic liberty in market Capitalism, as part of enjoying liberty in America. The simple fact is that, between Democrats and Trump’s GOP, we essentially face Free-Market Capitalism and Constitutional Fascism as our present and future choices in America: Very likely, we either live with Capitalist drugs or die under Fascist boots.
Since they are the two alternatives that we cannot escape, let’s describe them in the clearest way possible: Capitalism, especially the American kind called “predatory capitalism” because of the heartless, calculating way it does its business, wears sheep’s clothing with a wolf’s heart. Fascism, represented by the Trump-GOP kind, wears wolf’s clothing with a wolf’s heart. We tend to view Capitalism through a softer prism because of its comforting hypnotic guise in sheep’s clothing, than the undisguised snarling of Fascism, especially the kind that we have witnessed at the Capitol on January 6.
Both Capitalism and Fascism are systems whose ultimate goals are power and control. Capitalism controls the majority who work and consume in the mainstream of society, and derives its power with the wealth it collects and owns; Fascism has the electoral majority controlling the popular majority. (In our present rules, it’s hard to tell which is majority or minority in America).
Capitalism tends to avoid uses of direct violence, as it prefers the neutral appearance of the “marketplace” or “free enterprise” or “consumer choice,” and so on; only rarely does it resort to something physical and violent, such as “debtor’s prison” or eviction with sheriff’s deputies; threats of deprivation are mostly enough. Fascism, with its characteristic adolescent impatience, is less shy about using force, whether gangster style or military or even legal, as its operational mode for the direct demonstration of its strength and manliness.
In the simplified and childlike worldview of both systems, all social relations among individuals, groups and nations are reduced to the simplest equation of power, in which the strong rule the weak. Capitalism’s focus is on economic power as its modus operandi, while Fascism’s is more on the naked political power. For this reason, the center of gravity in America during Trump’s reign shifted from Wall Street to the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, all non-economic (and formerly weak) institutions.
Now, under Biden’s reign, it is moving back to Wall Street (if you ignore Biden’s threat to high-tax the rich and the GOP’s bluff to block it). Briefly we lived under semi-Fascism during Trump’s presidency, but its full-blown version is expected when Trump’s GOP makes their comeback in the coming years.
To be sure, while they compete for dominance against each other, both share their critical dependence on the institutional complements of power — police, military, economic, legal, educational, spiritual, cultural, media. Both Capitalists and Fascists prey on lonely and gullible souls. Capitalism accomplishes its goal of profit-making primarily with consumer-hypnosis in advertisement and entertainment, and Fascism, as shown in Trump’s reign, is unashamed to use open lies and violence in accomplishing its objective, which is gaining and maintaining power. As their weapons of choice, Capitalists prefer image-manipulation while Fascists like to charge the barricades.
Still, we feel we know more about American Capitalism than we do about American Fascism, the new kid on the block. But in some ways, we are more confused about Capitalism because of its addiction-creating in-your-heart approach. The Disney model is the most typical of this, and as it sells us family, love and fantasy, we tend to fall for it with our hearts and pay gladly for its hugs and kisses. Fascism is unabashed with the in-your-face methodology of power, a simple, clear-cut, uncomplicated system that says power rules. This fits the common man-child character of Trump supporters, who strongly favor actions over thoughts.
As our political choices today, one burrows in your heart with fake love and the other spits in your face. Neither system is democratic nor American, especially viewed from Jefferson’s vision of America. Our democracy dies slowly and in gooey dreams under Capitalism and Democrats; or our democracy dies violently and shamelessly with Constitutional Fascism and Republicans. The former is money-owned, and the latter White–operated, and both self-destructive. The ship of America sinks one way or the other.
Personally, I would prefer Fascism, as I would have preferred South Africa’s once-brutal and unadorned Apartheid to the American South’s rationally legislated, prayer-sweetened and never-going-away Jim Crowism. With the former, you can at least identify, confront and fight its moral injustice, as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela did. Capitalism is just too well elaborated and deeply entrenched in America to be openly opposed. After all, it’s much easier to criticize a Donald Trump than a Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos.
Jon Huer, columnist for the Recorder and Professor Emeritus, lives in Greenfield. He is the author of a dozen books of social commentaries, art criticisms and political economy.
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