The Worker

What Are the Characteristics of American Fascism?

By Timothy Dirte. Originally published on January 2, 2021.

On February 20th, 1939 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, some 20,000 Americans gathered under the banner of the German American Bund (G.A.B.) pro-Nazi organization. The hall was draped in American flags, a giant picture of George Washington and swastikas all around. The purported theme was “pro-Americanism” with an emphasis on the reactionary policies of the US toward minority groups.

James Wheeler-Hill, national secretary of the Bund, opened the event with “if George Washington were alive today, he would be friends with Adolf Hitler.” And later, Fritz Julius Kuhn, leader of the GAB, in their speech at the event called both the sitting US president Roosevelt and NYC Mayor LaGuardia Jews, then further advocated for an America specifically for the white-gentile to the exclusion of everyone else.

Thankfully, at the time of this event, it was highly unpopular, and within a short period after the rally, the US government quickly cracked down on these fascists owing to the cultivated Anti-Fascist People’s Front being led by the American working class. But these fascist ideas were not completely alien to the US. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other reactionary elements of the US have long maintained much of the same white supremacist ideology, with the KKK at one point having nearly 5 million members and plans to overthrow the US.

As well, four years prior to the G.A.B. Madison Square Garden conference, In 1934, the American Liberty League (A.L.L.) was founded by the largest Wall Street corporations at the time, including but not limited to the du Ponts, Rockefellers, Morgans, General Motors, General Foods, and American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) in order to utilize charismatic WWI veteran Smedley Butler to overthrow Roosevelt, with the assistance of tens of thousands of disgruntled WWI veterans participating in the bonus march. This was all in an effort towards the establishment of an open dictatorship, as seen in Germany and Italy. Although this plan failed, it is an example of how fascism can rear its ugly head in the US. The US is, then, not an exception to world capitalism. The primary difference between the fascism of the German American Bund and the fascism of the American Liberty League is German capital vs US capital.

American fascism expresses itself most visibly in those elements which are ideologically and materially bought off by the state and who are engendered with chauvinistic national pride, just like that in Germany, Italy, and Japan. However, the specific rhetoric used by the fascists is determined by the political development of the masses. This is because the specific form that fascism takes is conditioned by the specific national characteristics of a nation, but the same purpose is present in all fascist nations.

In this respect, the demagoguery of American fascists has traditionally used far less socialist language, though still ultimately requiring some semblance of faux anti-capitalist rhetoric. For example, Huey Long’s “Share The Wealth” campaign that promoted policies which used anti-capitalist language such as wealth distribution, making “every man a king,” but was ultimately a facade to continue the unending capitalist machine and class oppression.

Other notable US fascists are Father Coughlin, who supported the fascist National Industrial Recovery Act of the Roosevelt administration which was patterned after Mussolini’s “corporative state.”[1] William Z Foster describes Father Coughlin as “Coughlin himself, a silver speculator and associate of big bankers, was a violent critic of everything democratic, and he undoubtedly aimed at establishing a fascist America—presumably with himself as the dictator. He was finally ‘silenced’ by the Catholic Church, which apparently did not yet want to be so completely identified with fascism in the United States. The Communist Party conducted a most active struggle against this dangerous movement.”

The pinnacle of American fascism however, being even more dangerous than the G.A.B. (which did not represent American finance capital), Father Coughlin, or Huey Long, was the “America First Committee” in 1940. Again, William Z Foster explains it as a “[t]he sinister movement comprising the America First Committee was the nearest thing to a general fascist party that the United States has yet had. Its line was the familiar “isolationism.” Under cover of elaborate peace demagogy, it cultivated every form of reaction in the United States and gave all possible assistance to the fascist Axis powers [my italics – TD]. The America First Committee was much more definitely fascist than its predecessor, the American Liberty League of the 1936 presidential campaign.“

The parallels to Trump’s “America First” policy should be unmistakable. Under a false pretense of peace, Trump and those who surround him have similarly cultivated reaction of every kind. And like the 1940 variant, Trump’s America First policy is characterized by its immense support from finance capital, as well as support from the labor aristocracy in the reactionary unions.

The American people have always valued peace over war, but owing to the anti-people policies of the bourgeoisie, war has been forced upon the American people, killing millions upon millions the world over. The anti-war rhetoric of American fascists is, then, a strategic ploy in order to fool the already war weary people into yet more war, and further their spiritual and moral degeneracy.

When Trump speaks of peace and withdrawing troops, he simultaneously instigates tension in the Middle East with Israel and Turkey acting as outposts for US imperialism. Trump bombed an Iranian general to instigate war with Iran, sold arms to Taiwan to instigate war against China, sold arms to Ukraine to instigate war against Russia, and sent warships to seize Iranian oil and instigate war against Venezuela.

To think Trump is any less of a warhawk than Biden because he dons faux anti-war language, reduces troop counts, or hasn’t dropped bombs in a “new” war is missing the forest for the trees. War is on the horizon, these are all things done to attack the market dominance of competing powers while leading the American people to their death with false promises of peace. The die is being cast. As well, groups like the National Socialist Movement, Proud Boys, and Boogaloo Boys (which are all growing) have become satellite formations around Trump with the Republican party serving as the general center for American fascism and the Democratic party as its moderate wing. Not only this, but these movements will continue to grow when Biden becomes president.

Importantly, social-democracy in the US still exists, but because of the low political development of the working class, it does not take on socialist phrases. This is due to the fundamental role of social-democracy being mainly “labor tools of the capitalists”[2], and owing to the conditions of US capitalism, takes on a highly technical characteristic which is very much a strong current in the US. It’s on the basis of this technical hand waving of capitalist crisis and its resistance against popular programs that we see most of the enablers of fascist growth in the US.

On this point, the Democratic Party is one of the fiercest strongholds of technocracy. In essence, technocracy is “[…] mathematical formula and a semblance of realism about the machine civilization in which we live, without the ugly necessity of handing over that civilization to the uncouth working class.”[3] There is no better gathering of technocrats who write long, and dry dissertations on the futility of socialism, or in technical “solutions” to the fundamental contradiction in class society than in the Democratic Party. Thereby laying the ground for the growth and development of fascism after leaving the workers confused and misdirected.

We must expose these technocrats for who they are. They are social fascists, and our primary obstacle to the growth of class consciousness among the workers. If we do not expose them, rather than fighting to prevent the victory of fascism, we will objectively aide and abed it. We cannot allow that to happen!

Taking all these facts into mind, fascism in the US comes draped in the US flag speaking of liberty, freedom, and democracy while practically destroying all three. It is facilitated by the technocrats who destroy working class consciousness. American fascism stimulates national chauvinism, appeals to demoralized veterans and the middle class, uses technocratic (American social-democratic) language, promotes a false peace, and wields the bible like a club.

Therefore, it must be stopped at all costs, and it is the role of the communists in this country to do just that. It will be a long and arduous fight, but a fight that must commence nonetheless, as fascism cannot win.

For the American working class! The International community of nations! For world communism!

[1] “This elaborate scheme expressed the strong fascist sentiment current at this time in American big business. N.I.R.A. originated with the United States Chamber of Commerce and it was patterned after Mussolini’s “corporative state.” The plan proposed generally a state-controlled industrial system and labor movement. The man put in charge of it, General Hugh Johnson, was a reactionary and a frank admirer of the fascist dictator of Italy, Mussolini. Roosevelt gave this dangerous fascistlike plan his hearty endorsement.” – William Z. Foster, History of the Communist Party of the United States

[2] “The A.F. of L. top leaders, for example—an undeveloped brand of Social-Democrats who, because of the ideological undevelopment of the American working class, do not need to make demagogic use of Socialist slogans—condemned the revolution from the outset. Their instinct, as labor tools of the capitalists, was as unerring in their hatred of living socialism as that of the big monopolists themselves.” – William Z. Foster, History of the Communist Party of the United States

[3] William Z. Foster, Technocracy and Marxism, together with the Technical Intelligentsia and Socialist Construction

Scroll to Top