Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Danger of American Fascism

The Danger of American Fascism
By Henry A. Wallace
The New York Times
From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 259.

Sunday 09 April 1944

On returning from my trip to the West in February, I received a request from The New York Times to write a piece answering the following questions:

What is a fascist?
How many fascists have we?
How dangerous are they?

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party.

The perfect type of fascist throughout recent centuries has been the Prussian Junker, who developed such hatred for other races and such allegiance to a military clique as to make him willing at all times to engage in any degree of deceit and violence necessary to place his culture and race astride the world. In every big nation of the world are at least a few people who have the fascist temperament. Every Jew-baiter, every Catholic hater, is a fascist at heart. The hoodlums who have been desecrating churches, cathedrals and synagogues in some of our larger cities are ripe material for fascist leadership.

The obvious types of American fascists are dealt with on the air and in the press. These demagogues and stooges are fronts for others. Dangerous as these people may be, they are not so significant as thousands of other people who have never been mentioned. The really dangerous American fascists are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.

The European brand of fascism will probably present its most serious postwar threat to us via Latin America. The effect of the war has been to raise the cost of living in most Latin American countries much faster than the wages of labor. The fascists in most Latin American countries tell the people that the reason their wages will not buy as much in the way of goods is because of Yankee imperialism. The fascists in Latin America learn to speak and act like natives. Our chemical and other manufacturing concerns are all too often ready to let the Germans have Latin American markets, provided the American companies can work out an arrangement which will enable them to charge high prices to the consumer inside the United States. Following this war, technology will have reached such a point that it will be possible for Germans, using South America as a base, to cause us much more difficulty in World War III than they did in World War II. The military and landowning cliques in many South American countries will find it attractive financially to work with German fascist concerns as well as expedient from the standpoint of temporary power politics.

Fascism is a worldwide disease. Its greatest threat to the United States will come after the war, either via Latin America or within the United States itself.

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after “the present unpleasantness” ceases.

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups. Likewise, many people whose patriotism is their proudest boast play Hitler’s game by retailing distrust of our Allies and by giving currency to snide suspicions without foundation in fact.

The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust of both Britain and Russia. They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini’s vaunted claim that he “made the trains run on time.” In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler’s claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to “make the trains run on time.” It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:

Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique. Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.

The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and “with malice toward none and charity for all” go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blinded by the Light

I heard 'Blinded by the Light' by Manfred Mann's Earth Band today. It was playing on Sirius, the satellite radio company, of which I have been a faithful subscriber for 5 years. I immediately added it to my favorites, and here's why: It takes me to another time. I have memories of the 70's that are actually very nice. I was 9 years old when the 70's ended and I still remember them. This song always reminds me of that decade. Probably because my mother was an ex-hippy and got into those post-Flower Child rock bands.

I have early childhood memories. I remember at 5 years old begging my mother to let me watch Saturday Night Live, back when Belushi, Ackroyd, Bill Murray, and Gilda were still on there. I do believe that I got my dry, witty, smart-assed sense of humor from being exposed to this show at such an early age. It also contributed to my enduring love of New York City, where I WILL live at least once before I die (white guy alert!). I would watch the opening credits and skits that referenced the city and thought to myself, how cool would it be to live there? I only confirmed this to myself when I spent time there in 2001, before 9/11.

I remember watching Yankees games on the Armed Forces Network, the only games we could get, when my dad was in the Army in Germany during the 70's. My dad's good friend, named David, was a Newyorkrican from the Bronx. When they went out, which was quite often, they would take me by his place, ostensibly so he could baby-sit for them. I think it was more because he was just thrilled to have a young mind to meld and warp with his love of the Bronx Bombers. And I didn't mind, cause I loved baseball and I loved David, and because of him, I still love the Yankees, the only sports team for whom I would bleed and die and support with unquestioning loyalty. I learned a lot from David, mostly colorful language shouted at the TV in Spanglish, especially considering we were watching during the Billy Martin-Reggie Jackson days. I often wonder what happened to David. I wonder if he's still in the Bronx?

I remember listening to my uncle's LP's of AC/DC, Van Halen, and Aerosmith. I was weaned on classic rock, both from my mom's enduring love for 60's music and his obsession with mullet rock. I remember the awful colors of the 70's. The cafeteria on base in Germany was painted this horrible mixture of very light orange and bright red. My room when we came home from overseas was painted light purple with wallpaper on the bookshelves and closet door that were huge, psychedelic flowers in all shades of purple. I remember awful 70's TV. I loved Sanford and Son, the Gong Show, and WKRP in Cincinnati, my three favorite shows. I remember when we got cable in '79. I remember standing on line for Star Wars in '77 and being scared shitless when a guy dressed as Darth Vader, who worked for the theater, walked down the line shaking hands with the crowd. I remember the '80 Republican Convention and the shock at Reagan being elected, especially since my parents were die-hard Democrats. I remember a whole host of memories that I haven't the time to post now.

Perhaps my most telling memory of the 70s was finding out where I really came from. To look at me, you would think I could trace my lineage back to when white met bread. I assure you that I am exactly 0% WASP. On my way home from the new school I was attending, in downtown Pensacola, after our return from Germany in '78, I was greeted at the street corner (I walked home cause it was so close, down by Pensacola Bay) by a large, very dark skinned man with tight white curly hair. He said, in his marble-mouthed coastal accent that so many second generation fisherman have down here, "Hay Maaaak. Hai yew?" as he held out his meathook of a hand, crusted with callouses gained from hours of working shrimp boats. I took it, uncertain, and he held it firmly but gently as he led me down the street and to my grandmother's house, where we were staying at the time. He dropped me off at the front gate and didn't leave until I went in and shut the door.

Later, I asked my mother who the black man who led me home was, thinking he must be an associate of my grandfather, who was a part-time fisherman in addition to being a part-time house painter and full-time fireman. My mother very matter-of-factly told me that he was my Uncle Bernie. She also told me that he was my blood. She told me my grandmother's people were Cuban, having come to Pensacola from Havana by way of New Orleans. She also informed me that my grandfather's people were Jews from Russia. I didn't exactly know what that meant at the time, though I did recall a couple of trips to Dachau (the old Nazi concentration camp) while a child in Germany. I knew it was a grave and serious place, and that something very bad had happened there. I would later lean that I was also 1/2 Irish from my father's side, a mixture of Scots Irish from Ulster and Irish-Catholic from Cork.

These are the memories that have shaped my life. More than the 80's, where I clumsily came of age, or the 90's, where I learned what it meant to be a strong-willed, independent person. I look back now and realize that I would not be the person I am today if not for those memories of a decade many people scarcely remember except in cornball retro movies and idiotic VH1 "Remember When" specials.

And that song jettisoned me back there in an instant.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Behind the Walls

I think I went into the wrong profession. I believe that I should have been a psychologist or a clergyman or something. I say this because I have been getting the life stories lately of many of my inmates dropped on me, unsolicited. I guess I've always been the kind of person who listens well. Sometimes this is a fault. Too much listening and not enough talking can lead to significant difficulties in life's little relationships.

So it should come as no surprise to me that when dealing with society's cast-offs, I would lend such a good ear as a listener. Stamp it on my forehead: TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS.

Understand that I am not in any way advocating for these men. While I work in a maximum security prison, and while I am around these men all day, I have not developed any sort of a bond or connection with them. I see them as criminals, men who are justifiably incarcerated for crimes committed against society. They have hurt people, total strangers, their families and friends, their employers, and in the most extreme and abhorrent cases, children.

With that caveat stated, realize that it IS my job to act as a counselor to these men. Not in a mental health or a spiritual way, but in a way that transcends mere advice or quick solution. I am their life counselor, in a way. My job involves me in these men's lives from the time they enter prison to the time they leave (and, yes, most people who go to prison WILL one day leave).

I classify every aspect of their lives, from what their custody will be, to how we will manage their behavior, to where they will sleep. I assign them their jobs, determine what kinds of programs they will have, discipline them when they violate the rules. I transfer them closer to their families when their behavior warrants it, assist them when they transition back to life on the outside, and help them maintain their ties to the outside world.

I guess in a weird, dysfunctional way I am like a father figure to some of these guys. I can understand this, as a goodly number of them have never had any sort of strong male presence in their lives that was not in an adversarial role. So when they are faced with one, I believe they cling to him in a familial sort of way.

I tell you all of this to set the scene for the point of my post. Friday I am down in the disciplinary confinement cell block making my rounds. I have to do this every week with inmates under my supervision. I go by their cells and address any concerns they may have, answer questions, and check on their well being in general. I have a good rapport with the security staff on the compound. All of us in classification do, which stands to reason, as we all have to work pretty closely with them. We depend on each other. I am sitting at one of the rec tables in the cell block, as all the disciplinary inmates are locked down. The officers are complaining about a particular inmate who has been giving them trouble for the past week. Not BIG trouble; just being a pain in the neck.

I suggest to them that I go talk to him. This inmate is not on my caseload, but I know him. His officer was out that day, so I figure I can help him out if there’s something wrong. I go to his cell front and talk to him. This guy is spending the next 35 years of his life in prison for a string of armed robberies. He’s been in and out of prison since he was a teenager. Now he’s 45. He will most likely die in prison.

He has caught a disciplinary report for being disrespectful to a female officer. He contends that he was giving hell to another inmate and that she overheard him and assumed he was talking about her. I don’t know the truth cause I didn’t sit on his disciplinary hearing team. But I listened to him anyway. And for the next 20 minutes, I listened. I think it was really cathartic for him. After he stopped, I talked to him some more. We exchanged ideas and stories, and, in the end, I think he really benefited from it. When I left his cell front, I turned my attention to my thoughts of other work I had to do. He called back to me and simply said, “Thank you.” I smiled back at him and said “you’re welcome.” And I left that cold cell block of concrete and steel feeling like I had actually done something worthwhile.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wear Sunscreen

No matter how many times I read this, I learn something new about myself, mostly from the introspection it brings. I have reprinted it here:

From a newspaper column written by Mary Schmich, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, who said she wrote it "while high on coffee and M&Ms" on May 31, 1997.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how
fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Monday, March 2, 2009


The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present.
I have this quote on my Facebook page right now. It is a lesson I have learned in a most painful way. For so long after my divorce, I carried around a lot of anger. I was angry at my ex for abandoning me after 10 years of loving bliss. I was angry at my chosen career, which I blamed for turning me into an unfeeling, uncaring, unloving automatron. I was mad with my family and friends for their perceived lack of understanding or caring.
In the end, I was just angry with myself. No one was to blame for the failure of my marriage except me. Certainly, there were other factors, and my ex shouldered some of the blame herself. But I was not responsible for her happiness and I was not responsible for her failings. I was responsible for me.

I neglected my ex. I had heard from others in my career field that my job would do this sometimes. I never believed it. It can’t possibly happen to me. But it did. To make a very long and complicated story short, I shut myself off from her. I saw unbelievable things at my job. Things I had never been exposed to before. Things the average civilian does not see every day. I did not know how to express my feelings. I did not know how to talk about it. My cynicism and bitterness were difficult to express. In retrospect, I know it would have been better if I had.

I forgot to tell her the things she needed to hear. I love you became rarer and rarer when it used to be repeated like a mantra. I did not get close, did not hold her, did not kiss her. Making love became less and less appealing. The environment I exposed myself to on a daily basis killed what used to be a healthy, active libido. Then I forgot Valentines Day. Nothing. Not so much as a card to her, from me or my daughters. No flowers, no candy, no nothing.

When she finally told me it was the end, it was like hitting a brick wall at 60 MPH. I was crushed. I was torn to bits. I entered a long, dark night of the soul from which I have only recently emerged. But she has gone on.

She is engaged again, and is contemplating another baby soon. She has rebuilt her life and is happy.
Now I must be happy also. I must leave my anger at my failings in the past. I would like at some point to be in another relationship and make up for all the things I didn’t do in my last. I would like to get involved in things that hold my interest in more than a superficial way. I would like to promote to upper management at work, even if this means moving far from my home. I would like to keep being the kind of father to my girls that makes them run to me with a yelp of joy, like they do now. A lot of introspection, and the healthy way I leave work at work at the end of each day, has led me to take an inventory of who I am as a person and what it is I want, to know what it is that makes me truly happy.

At 37, I finally have an idea.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


The statue I referred to in my post.

I've had the same nightmare since I was a kid. I'm buried. I'm in an awkward position. My head is pushed forward, as if there's something on it. My legs are before me, pushed up at odd angles, and my hands are pinned to my side. I can smell the soaked soil all around me, and it permeates my pores. I cannot breathe. I am suffocating. Then I recognize what is around me. There are naked bodies, as I am naked also. They are men, women, children, babies. Some have looks of shock on their faces, others, horror. Most have looks of resignation on their lifeless faces. They all suffer mortal wounds, most to their heads, some on other parts of their bodies. I see this and I begin to panic. I struggle to move, to breathe. I cannot. I cry out, but the voice is not there. I try harder. I realize the soil is soaked with blood, and body fluids, piss and shit. I try to scream again, and again. Eventually, the sound comes from deep within me, as if being forced out. Then I wake up.