What Is Fascism?

I applaud The Progressive for its point-counterpoint coverage of fascism ("What Is Fascism?" and "Yes, You Can Call Them Fascist," October/November issue). Too often the left ignores the possibility of reasonable, differing perspectives. That said, I found Jay Hatheway's "What Is Fascism?" less convincing and more frustrating than David Masciotra's "Yes, You Can Call Them Fascist."

"What Is Fascism" seemed encased in a disciplinary (in this case, historical) straitjacket. Hatheway's argument reminds me of certain geologists who are loath to accept the Anthropocene as a geological epoch. Their stubbornness comes from their narrow disciplinary definition of what constitutes a new epoch.

Hairsplitting about what constitutes fascism seems analogous. Rhetorical accuracy is important, but a rigid definition of fascism may prevent us from naming the very real threat posed to democracy by the fascism that is currently in ascendency.

To be fair, Hatheway points out one particular difference between European fascism and ours that seems valid: Historical fascism depended on a universal belief in a unified collective consciousness. Our cultures rampant individualism runs counter to this adherence to an "organic whole."

That difference, though, is not enough to justify expunging the word fascism from our current political vocabulary. Masciotra quotes political scientist Anthony DiMaggio, who wrote, "You're never going to get a carbon copy of the past." So, yes, our brand of fascism includes individualism, but that should not negate the other strong parallels: the racial supremacy, the reliance on propaganda and "the Big Lie," the assault on epistemology, and the reliance on violence.

--George Savage, via email

Talking Union

Sarah Jaffe may be interested in labor in the United States ("Labor Rising," October/November issue), but she seems to listen to the wrong people, or, at least, not to enough of the right ones. Academic specialists are usually far removed from the real world, and she doesn't seem to have spent much time talking with actual organizers who are in it for the long haul.

Here in Baltimore, Maryland, we have a wonderful group of workers and allies that has been working for twenty years to organize low-wage workers in difficult-to-reach circumstances. There is a lot of sophisticated and painstaking work going on. Reporting on it could both hearten the weary and suggest ways they could join it or emulate it in their own...

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