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Is the Tea Party a fascist movement?

It is easy to call someone who disagrees with you a fascist. It is also in most cases completely wrong. 

Conservatives are not fascists. Reactionaries are not fascists.

An incorrect understanding of fascism, its social base in the middle class and its role as the battering ram of the bourgeoisie against labour leads to catastrophic results.  The failure of Stalinism to recognise the mortal danger that the Nazis posed to the working class and the madness of its social fascist analysis of the social democrats ensured the victory of fascism in Germany.

The rise of Stalin represented the defeat of the working class revolution in Russia and the adoption of anti-worker policies that reflected the interests of the new ruling class.

Trotsky more than anyone else kept alive the ideals of socialism – of democracy and planning , of production for people. His work on fascism is among some of his finest writing and analysis.

For him fascism was initially a movement of the middle class, the class stuck between the big battalions of labour and capital. It was a revolt against both.

What gives it its power is social crisis, and the need of the bourgeoisie to smash the organised sections of the working class and any possible resistance to attacking wages and jobs.

Thus Hitler’s first concentration camps held communists, social democrats and trade unionists.

The middle class in places like America and Australia is a disparate group. It includes family farmers, other small businesses and functionaries of the state.

In times of economic crisis it feels and is caught between capital and labour and can easily express that powerlessness in rhetoric against the bourgeoisie or their State.

The decline of US imperial power is one such long ongoing crisis. The stagnation of US profit rates and the small increase in living standards for the vast majority of the population (but big increases for the super rich) over the last 3 decades are another. Couple these factors with the global financial crisis, and the conditions for the growth of fascism become favourable.

On top of that the bail outs of big business, the obscenity of rewards in the form of bonuses for failure, the increase in unemployment in the US to 10 percent and the fact that Obama is the smiling face of the bosses and their neoliberalism adds even more fertiliser to the soil of fascism.

The Tea Party (taxed enough already) makes the classic demands of a suffering petit bourgeoisie.

It sees the state and big business, as well as organised labour, as its enemies. Thus the very essence of the organisation is virulent opposition to Government, especially government which uses ordinary people’s tax dollars to prop up the likes of the motor car and banking industries.

The left cannot dismiss these real concerns. The anti-Wall Street rhetoric  of the Tea Party has appeal to working class Americans. Indeed the lack of a mass social democratic party in America, let alone a revolutionary one, means that a movement of the petit bourgeois can drag many workers in behind it rather than as happens in revolutionary situations the other way around.

The urgent task for the Left in America is to build a mass revolutionary party that is a real pole of attraction for workers and drags the petit bourgeois masses behind it.

Hitler’s anti-capitalist demagoguery was an attempt to draw in workers and lumpen proletariat to his movement just as much as it was an expression of the social position of the German middle class.

The lumpen elements made up his street fighting gangs which did the dirty work for the middle class on the streets. It is conceivable that some elements in the Tea Party could perform the same role.

Hitler used virulent racism, especially about Jewish finance capital, to cohere his disparate supporters and keep them when he became the tool of the bourgeoisie. The Tea Party is overwhelmingly white and uses anti-Obama racism to create convenient non-capitalist enemies and glue together many of its constituents.

The Tea Party paints itself as the inheritor of the true ideals of the American revolution. That revolution was a middle class led one breaking the grip of the dominant economic power and allowing a home grown bourgeoisie to develop. But to do that it had to arm the property-less and give them some vision (but not reality) of sharing power.

The difference is that in 1776 capitalism in the US was in its infancy, beginning its growth. That is not the case now. The system is aged and decrepit and shifting its centre from the West to the East.

The Tea Party serves a useful purpose for capital today – dragging debate to the right and with it the already very conservative Democrat Party.

The global financial crisis was a warning shot across the bow of US capitalism, a tocsin that has tolled alarm. Bush and Obama mobilised the state to save major elements of the system in the US, but cannot do so again if the crisis worsens.

The State depends for its ability to save the system on the production of social surplus by workers. If that very process is threatened there are no available funds for the Obamas of the world to use to prop up the system.

In that case the bourgeois solution becomes an organisation committed to driving down wages and restoring profit rates.

The historical conditions exist for the development of such a group in America. Certainly the soil is favourable for the weeds of fascism in the US and the Tea Party are its seeds. 

The Tea Party can bide its time. If the working class and the Left have not built a mass revolutionary organisation then when the bourgeoisie needs a battering ram to take on labour and massively attack living standards,  the Tea Party will be ready.



Pingback from Tweets that mention En Passant » Is the Tea Party a fascist movement? —
Time April 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm

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Comment from dl
Time April 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Hi there John! First of all, to paraphrase here, a first time commenter, moderately long time reader. In my humble opinion, a creditable analysis on your of some of the class dynamics of the Tea Party movement, but I believe your suggestion of building a strong Left wing party to act as a counterveiling force to the Tea partiers to be a bit of a pipe dream. Considering the rancorous opposition to Obama’s moderately progressive reforms, (eg. healthcare) it just appears that a more progressive left gaining traction in America’s current political climate has about a zero chance of happening. No disrespect intended here, by the way.
My regards,

Comment from John
Time April 18, 2010 at 9:44 pm

DL In the short to medium term I think that you are correct. I wasn’t arguing necessarily for a social democratic alternative but a revolutionary one. ISO in the US is very small. I think most of the forces of the left broadly defined have been disoriented and demobilised by Obama. However Obama was able to build a coalition of hope and it is possible that labour and the left might be able to do the same. But again that may well be a pipe dream. Optimist of the heart, pessimist of the intellect or some such i guess. As an aside I think the rancorous opposition grew from Obama’s backdowns and ultimate capitulation over healthcare.

I didn’t know you many years ago did I? The initials are also those of someone I used to know and respect very much.

Comment from Arjay
Time April 18, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Obama has refused to rescind the Patriot Act of Bush,he has enacted preventative detention in which a suspected terrorist can be gaoled indefinitely with out trial or charges being laid in a court.

Obama has been complicit in destroying the US constitution yet he is portrayed as some new light to freedom? Obama is just a puppet of the Corporate Elites who put him there through the likes of Ruppert Murdoch.

Ron Paul and his tea party followers are not the facists.They believe in democracy and the the right of individuals not to be dictated to by the leviathan of big Government.

I’ve have enough of this facist RTA in NSW.We as individuals have the right to self determination.

While I don’t agree with all Ron Paul’s ideals,he has the basics right.No bureaucrat with any concept of the realities we all face on a daily basis,should have absolute power over our lives.Nor should the corporate elites.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts,absolutely.

Comment from Marco
Time April 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm

A very scary prospectus, John.

And it becomes scarier if one realizes that somehow the Anglo-Saxon world has this property of moving together.

Comment from Shane H
Time April 21, 2010 at 8:56 am

I think its important to recognise a real fascist movement is a response to a real working class threat. So if we were to build such a revolutionary party then we would see the capitalists turn to fascism as an emergency measure to save the system. Unfortunately there is no danger of the former and thus no danger of the latter. This talk of fascism is a variant of the ‘we must support the democrats’ to head it off. Ironically this is what failed to defeat real fascism in Germany. Some discussion of this on Marxmail

Comment from John
Time April 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Shane, in Germany at least the ruling class only threw its support behind Hitler as the Depression took hold and the old bourgeois politicians failed to restore profit rates. The threat of a working class revolution was more an actuality between 1918 and 1923 in Germany yet fascism did not take hold then. it was the German revolution’s failure that made the rise of fascism a possibility over the next decade.

Comment from John
Time April 21, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Shane, the target of fascism was not the revolutionary movement per se. it was the organised working class – social democrats, stalinists, revolutionaries, trade unionists – who stood in the way of driving down living standards to restore profit rates.

Comment from Marco
Time April 22, 2010 at 10:22 am

John and fellow readers,

There is a Yank writer, named Joe Bageant, you must read to understand the Tea Party movement and its roots in the American heartland.

Joe is a leftist, but of a peculiar sort. Although I get the impression he’s an overall good bloke, at times he can be outright rude, always sarcastic and I suspect sometimes he drinks way more than enough.

But he’s a good observer of what people call “poor white trash”. Being born in that environment, he knows what makes the stormtroopers of American fascism tick.

That’s his website: