Left and Right

No, Fascism Can’t Happen Here

An excellent analysis based on a serious understanding of how modern liberal-democratic corporate-public administration states actually work.

By Tyler Cowen

The Atlantic

And the reason has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

Could it ever happen here? Fascism, that is. That question is a standard refrain from American history, dating back at least to the 1930s and also related to the classic Sinclair Lewis novel It Can’t Happen Here. It was asked with increasing frequency after the ascent and election of Donald Trump, both on the left and by “Never Trump” commentators on the right, and has continued to be raised as Trump has governed.

But I would like to hazard a prediction that no, it cannot happen here. I won’t claim it could never happen over the centuries, rather that it can’t happen in anything recognizably like the America of today.

My argument is pretty simple: American fascism cannot happen anymore because the American government is so large and unwieldy. It is simply too hard for the fascists, or for that matter other radical groups, to seize control of. No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve, and they cannot control what is sometimes called “the deep state.” The net result is they simply can’t control enough of the modern state to steer it in a fascist direction.


10 replies »



    You must understand, the leading Bolsheviks who took over Russia were not Russians. They hated Russians. They hated Christians. Driven by ethnic hatred they tortured and slaughtered millions of Russians without a shred of human remorse. It cannot be overstated. Bolshevism committed the greatest human slaughter of all time. The fact that most of the world is ignorant and uncaring about this enormous crime is proof that the global media is in the hands of the perpetrators.
    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    Nowhere on the planet, nowhere in history, was there a regime more vicious, more bloodthirsty, and at the same time more cunning than the Bolshevik, the self-styled Soviet regime.
    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    Wrangel pretended to combat the Bolsheviks, Bolshevism is Jewry. In order to retain the favor of the Jews holding the real power in England, France and the United States, Wrangel showed to the Jews signs of his submission to them. Thereafter the Russian masses abandoned Wrangel as a traitor or as a comedian. It is impossible simultaneously to be an auxiliary of the Jew and an enemy of the Bolsheviki who are Jews. Be it incoherence or treason, Wrangel deserved the same fate as Denikin and he got it.
    Boris Brasol

    The Russian Bolsheviks have discovered that truth does not matter so long as there is reiteration. They have no difficulty whatever in countering a fact by a lie which, if repeated often enough and loudly enough, becomes accepted by the people.
    Winston Churchill

    Churchill voiced the notion of strangling the infant Bolshevism in its cradle several times over the years. An early instance was in the House of Commons, 26 January 1949:

    “I think the day will come when it will be recognized without doubt, not only on one side of the House, but throughout the civilized world, that the strangling of Bolshevism at its birth would have been an untold blessing to the human race.”

    Mr. Seymour Cocks (Lab.) interrupted:

    “If that had happened we should have lost the 1939–45 war.”

    Churchill replied:

    “No, it would have prevented the last war.”

    Here he was suggesting the likelihood of a democratic Russia joining in collective security agreements to forestall Hitler’s aggressions.1

    [1 Winston S. Churchill, Churchill in His Own Words, ed. Richard M. Langworth (London: Ebury, 2012), 148; and James, His Complete Speeches vol. 8, 7774.]

    Churchill also mentioned “strangling Bolshevism” in his March 1949 speech to the Mid-Century Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Five years later, in remarks to the National Press Club, Washington on 28 June 1954 he stated:

    “If I had been properly supported in 1919, I think we might have strangled Bolshevism in its cradle, but everybody turned up their hands and said, ‘How shocking!’”2

    [2 Churchill, Churchill by Himself, 381.]

    Churchill’s initial anger at the Bolsheviks stemmed from their refusal to rejoin the fight against Imperial Germany after the Bolshevik Revolution in the first World War. Briefly, he hoped to convince them to rejoin the fight, making the suggestion that the Allies send a “commissar” to Russia to negotiate the deal. His surprising recommendation was Theodore Roosevelt.

    After the war his condemnations became ideological, as he called for aid to the anti-Bolshevik forces. Describing, in 1920, the Bolsheviks as a “vile group of cosmopolitan fanatics,” he promised that “the policy I will always advocate is the overthrow and destruction of that criminal regime.”

    Some presume that the crime he referred to was the execution of the Russian royal family but there was more to it than that, as Robert Rhodes James wrote in his Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939:

    Lloyd George subsequently wrote that ‘The most formidable and irresponsible protagonist of an anti-Bolshevik war was Mr. Winston Churchill. He had no doubt a genuine distaste for Communism….His ducal blood revolted against the wholesale elimination of Grand Dukes in Russia.’

    This thrust was unfair; Churchill’s detestation of Bolshevism rested on deeper feelings….and his onslaughts upon Bolshevik philosophies and their exponents became even more outspoken. ‘The theories of Lenin and Trotsky,’ he declared in January 1920,

    ‘have driven man from the civilization of the 20th century into a condition of barbarism worse than the Stone Age, and left him the most awful and pitiable spectacle in human experience, devoured by vermin, racked by pestilence, and deprived of hope.’

    Then in the age of Hitler, Churchill took a different tack, having considered that Nazism, by the 1930s, was by far the greater threat. Thus he made the famous quip to his private secretary, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941:

    “If Hitler invaded Hell I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

    After World War II, he returned again to the threat of communism, and was roundly reviled by the Western media (see cartoon) for turning on his former Soviet allies—only to be reviled by the other side when, in the early Fifties, he sought a “settlement” of the cold war with Stalin’s successors. But that is another story.

  2. Completely disagree. The judiciary is humored by the executive. They have no ability to stop a sufficiently motivated president and beuracratic majority from radically altering the operation of the state. Legislative failure to prosecute Bush and Obama era overreach suggest that going forward a multicultural state executive will rule more or less by decree. If the judges fail to go along they will be disbarred by executive sympathetic beuracrats.

    Ironically this will be called fascism, but only by timid republicans for a short time. Ever after it will simply be the way things are and always were. At this point white anarchists will cease to be useful to Neoliberals and their families will likely join them in prison.

    • I think your argument is based on a misunderstanding of the role of the President in “our” system. The real power in the United States is the “power elite,” identified by C. Wright Mills, i.e. those in control of major industrial, financial, corporate, military, bureaucratic, media, educational, and political institutions. Policy decisions concerning major economic and foreign policy issues are decided based on the consensus of the dominant factions of the power elite. Henry Kissinger himself once admitted this. The role of the President is to implement the decisions that have been predetermined by the consensus of the power elite. A President that openly defied the power elite to too great a degree would get the Salvador Allende treatment. Look how easily Trump has turned into just another Republican president. Look how easily Obama became a power elite lackey before. “Our” system works differently from the states that succumbed to totalitarian revolutions or military coups in the 20th century.

      The lesson of Tyler Cowen’s analysis is that the struggle against the state must involve a multiplicity of radical currents attacking the many different tentacles of the state from different directions, i.e. a grand strategy of a vast array of anti-state interest groups of the kinds I have written about many times before.

      • You mistake the forest for the trees. The executive is just a mechanism. The power elite is openly neoliberal and will stack courts or defy them. Trump has made no significant waves because either he is genuinely anti-neoliberal and lacking enough dissident elite support or because he is a neoliberal and is slow walling the last election cycle in which a vote count is necessary.

        Politics as they have been in the United States cannot be used as a measure for how they will be in a state with no sociocultural majority and de facto single party rule in the executive.

        • I don’t think I disagree with anything that you said, but I disagree that what you’re describing is the same thing as “fascism.” Do we have a sociocultural majority now? I think that would be a pretty dubious claim. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/white-christians-now-minority-u-s-population-survey-says It would also seem like we’ve had single party rule for a long time, i.e. rule of the State-Capitalist Party, which is divided into two major factions, the Democrats and Republicans, both of which contain a plethora of sub-factions. If you’re arguing that the USA is a corporatist-plutocratic, imperialist, police state for which things like multiculturalism and totalitarian humanism are part of its self-legitimizing ideology, you will get no argument from me. I’ve pretty much said that around 20,000 times over the past 20 years.

          • Basically the problem with everyone (including libertarians) defining fascism as state-capitalism with a strong political police wing is that describes every single modern state. Such a definition is clearly too broad to be useful, and could as easily describe the government of Woodrow Wilson as that of Benito Mussolini.

          • I think we agree largely on the nature or the neoliberal state. What I disagree with is your contention that procedural inertia is strong enough to hold back what is an obvious sociopolitical coup. I would say the Americans lost their sociopolitical majority decades ago but not until recently was it possible to leverage enough minority fragments into a blunt political instrument to dismantle long and somewhat regularly observed norms.

            To make a long story short: voters are going to be reliable enough for the next DNC executive to essentially ignore and and all judiciary or legislative resistance. And when this takes place the de facto arrangement of the American imperial structure will become much more corporate beuracratic, likely modeled on the Chinese.

            I don’t think the transition will be noted or acknowledged outside of fringe right circles but within a decade or two they will go through the formality of a constitutional convention to iron out the new official structure.

            • Okay, I tend to agree more with what you said in the post above. I agree that it will be virtually impossible for the Republicans to maintain a victorious electoral majority in the future barring some radical political realignments. Trump lost the popular vote last time, and I don’t see the Republicans’ numbers growing in the future. Their only hope would seem to be to attract more minorities with conservative views on social issues, economics or foreign policy. But I don’t really see what is now a party of old white people in rural areas and small towns doing that.

              So it’s quite possible that the Democrats could achieve a permanent electoral majority in future presidential elections that is large enough to guarantee them permanent victory status in the Electoral College as well. However, even if the presidency becomes the property of the Blue Tribe on a permanent basis, the Senate, state governments, and red zones represented in the House will continue to include plenty of politicians from the Red Tribe. Even if the Republicans went away like the Whigs did before, it’s quite possible the Democrats would split into a centrist neoliberal party and a leftist social democratic party. I do agree that increased authoritarianism, and the use of a liberal ideological smokescreen as a pretext, is a genuine problem. Of course, what you’re concerned about is the influence of the Right continuing to dwindle over time due to demographic, cultural, and generational change, and I think you’re absolutely right that will continue to take place over time.

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