Al Brilliant

“Sorry Empire”

I want to thank Dr. Michael Joseph Roberto for the honor of being the first guest on his new blog column that is devoted to the betterment of our community, our city and our nation. And since the U. S. seems to be the dominant nation affecting all others decisively, perhaps Michael’s efforts can change the world?

Yet I have noticed a reluctance, right at the beginning, for so many people, to accept Michael’s words and insights from years of teaching, writing, and activism in this city. He was a solid historian who taught for two decades at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Distinguished academicians and public intellectuals are usually given a lot of respect and forbearance. I recognize that Michael’s “home truths” are “close to the bone,” but still . . .

I believe ours is an addictive society. We all know that pithy saying, from A.A., about addiction: Denial ain’t a river in Egypt. And yet if I am correct that ours is an addictive society then it stands to reason that if someone, professor, expert, or man-in-the-street, threatens the source of the addict, he will be castigated.

What Jung called the nicht als will fly! In Michael’s case, the nicht als has taken the form, “He’s nothing but a Communist Ideologue,” “He’s just self-serving,” “He’s a self-promoter,” etc. To even uneducated citizens, we recognize an argumentum ad hominem when we see one. Just once I would like to hear the nay-sayers try to tackle Dr. Roberto on the substance of his insights, not the size of his Sicilian nose.

For Michael’s pronouncements are not rocket science, requiring the minimum of a Ph. D. to understand. When he calls President Donald Trump a fascist, Michael does so on the basis of a book he published, The Coming of the American Behemoth: The Origins of Fascism in the United States, 1920-1940 (Monthly Review Press: 2018). You can read the book. You can understand what he means. Calling him names doesn’t negate the truths he uncovers.

Michael believes that fascism is the inevitable and final transformation, the “endgame” as he puts it, of monopoly-finance capitalism. He is merely the latest to say this. There are valid precedents, as he demonstrated in his book based on writers whose works during the 1930s and early 1940s have been buried by U.S. historians and political scientists ever since. I for one agree completely. We are seeing this play out right before us, fast and furious since World War II.

I know that Michael agrees with me when I often talk about another dimension of fascism, which is the continued growth of the military presence here and abroad. The military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us of 60 years ago is quickly becoming a military dictatorship with Donald Trump in the White House.

How do you explain the presence of 1,000 American Army encampments all over the world as well as 1,000 more right here in the U.S.? How do you explain the presence of nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, replete with fighter planes and bombers, in every ocean, on and under every sea? After all, the politician whom you are hoping to defeat Trump and his Mafia voted, as a senator, for George II’s War on Iraq, because Saddam Hussein  had “weapons of mass destruction” threatening your homes and loved ones. American Behemoth indeed!

Glauschautung was the name given the preparation of Germany for becoming a fascist nation in the 1930s. And Michael believes American fascism is in its Glauschautung phase right now, right here. I do too. But, of course, if our addiction is Comfort, if we see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – if our addiction is American Exceptionalism and Identity Politics, then we pooh-pooh American Fascism. This Monopoly Game Board began 100 years ago and has become more vocal and disabling every year since. Fifty percent of our people who are polled don’t even believe in Capitalism. But find me a middle-class white gentleman in Greensboro who doesn’t worship The Almighty Dollar. Capitalism has alienated us all. We are Consumer Henchmen of The Man. Individualism, cowardice, and ease defines the local bourgeoisie. Who will deny it?

One acquaintance of mine assures me that even after Trump is re-elected, “America and American Democracy can survive.” Another sees Joe Biden as the “Savior of Democracy,” forgetting that Biden, when senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote the “Three-and-Out 1994 Law” that has decimated the African-American community in our country. Biden voted for NAFTA as a matter of course – merely a tool of Wall Street and the one-percenters. He is a one-percenter, having cashed in successfully.

Fascism, if you’re still listening, is the alliance of Finance, Politics, and The Military. And it takes a 100 percent addict not to see this alliance in what even Eisenhower saw over a half-century ago.

Fascism is not some bogey-man my generation defeated in World War II. Fascism is a way of life. Its precedents in our country begin in 1620 and before, with the genocide of the Native American population, with the bondage of the kidnapped African. The first jail appeared 25 years after 1620. The governor of The Massachusetts Bay Colony told us we needed incarceration primarily for debtors and those who spoke out against The State.

The 1 percent have become more subtle as they have become more powerful and deadly. But nothing has changed since we first polluted these shores. I go further than Dr. Roberto. I believe we have always been a military dictatorship disguised as a democracy. “Democracy” means, from the two Greek words in its etymology, “rule by the people.” Yeah, right . . .

Ten years ago, Michael along with colleagues Greg Meyerson, Jamey Essex and Jeff Noonan published  a lengthy essay called “Moment of Transition: Structural Crisis and the Case for a Democratic Socialist Party”(Cultural Logic: An Electronic Journal of Marxist Theory and Practice: 2010; reprinted in book form ISSN # 1097-3087). In this collaborative work we find proposals to solve a coming crisis which he and the others correctly foresaw. Had Sen. Bernie Traduce Sanders, instead of wimping out of the primaries and then compounding his cowardice by holding hands with (ugh) Joe Biden, adopted Michael’s views on fascism presented in the first part of the essay, and then almost a decade later in American Behemoth, which he delivered to Sanders’ senate office almost a year ago, we might now be in a more hopeful stance. Later, he did everything he could to get another manifesto to Sanders called the Community Platform, which Michael and others in Greensboro prepared in 2017 as the basis for electing a progressive city council in December of that year. People around Sanders ignored all his communication.

In the “Conclusion” to Moment of Transition, Michael and his co-writers emphasized the urgency of the failure and imploding of our capitalist system then underway, the fascist processes it generated, and thus the need for a Third Party, the party Bernie Traduce Sanders could have easily and successfully established, a Democratic Socialist Party, and a democratic alternative to the Republicrats that have run our country into the ground. Already in 2010, they had called for a more cooperative foreign policy, not one of bullying, and a system of production and exchange based on cooperation and collaboration. They saw real chances for a transitional economy that connects private and cooperative ownership as the foundation of a small-scale local economy, with the socialization of production, banking, education, healthcare and other essential things and services at the national level. Transition toward progress in this century also required, among other things, ecological legislation vitally needed with each passing year, and for income and goods attained at levels every family must have to live fruitfully.

What is so frightening about such just and proper policies? Actions that have been a progressive priority have always and can be easily promulgated.

If it is not too late, I recommend reading Michael’s book, “Moment of Transition,” and The Community Platform. These are good reads if you’re feeling helpless and depressed at the utter failure of political leadership in your community and country. (November is not the only election coming up; a new city council in Greensboro will be elected one year from now.) For Michael back in 2010, America had already entered a moment of transition toward fascism as the result of a “moribund rogue empire” I briefly sketched above. Ten years ago and more, he and a few others saw the apocalyptic levels to which Pax Americana (Pox Americana?) would go to restore its hegemonic and demonic tyranny over the globe.

Upon the ruins of our dreams of a truly democratic society, upon the ruin that the 1%-Wall Street-Washington-Pentagon coalition has wrought, we must build, as Michael and his co-writers wrote, “a mass political party as the instrument for revolutionary-socialist transformation.”

I am grateful Michael gave me his space for a guest column. He is undergoing minor surgery currently and asked a couple of guests to take his place temporarily. Well, I can say “minor surgery” – it ain’t happening to me. No doubt, for him, it is major surgery! Get well and come back real soon, Michael, we sure need ya’!

Posted in Al Brilliant, The Week in Black and White.