By Matthew Rothschild on May 20, 2010

“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” Chomsky said, “and I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home. “The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.

Many scholars discount the possibility of fascism, per se, taking hold in the United States. They tend to define fascism as a mass-based, racist, ultranationalist movement, often centered in the lower middle class, which extols the nation over the individual and relies on the use of paramilitary violence to transport the country to a mythic place. Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany are the classic cases.

“I don’t think there’s any chance of fascism coming to America,” says UCLA sociologist Michael Mann, author of a 2004 book entitled Fascists. “Nowadays, fascism is really dead. The word has become just a term of abuse to throw at anyone we don’t like.”

In an e-mail, Mann draws what he considers to be a crucial distinction between the current rightwing movement in America and traditional fascists. “The extreme right in the U.S. is anti-government, whereas fascists were very pro-government, believing that government coercion can solve all problems,” he says.

But if many of the tea party people, as I suspect, actually despise not big government but “liberal” government, especially one that is led by a black man, then there is false comfort in the claim that this resurgent rightwing movement is largely libertarian. For it’s conceivable that a segment of this constituency might readily abandon its surface libertarianism and march behind an ultra nationalist leader who promises to restore America’s mythic honor.

Here are some things to watch out for....

This is a short excerpt of this story that is in the June issue of The Progressive magazine. To read the entire piece, subscribe now for $14.97.

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A plea to United States citizens to work for peace

An Indian journalist globally renowned as an advocate for the poor, Palagummi Sainath detailed the detrimental...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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