thumping the tub
Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. (from This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
People use the word fascism (and for that matter anarchism/anarchy) without really knowing what it means. Fascism is used as a sort of general insult which means something vaguely unpleasant (anarchy is used when the word should be chaos).

A few years ago Norman Mailer said that the USA was a 'pre-fascist society'. In the UK, I hear and read about how we are progressing toward a fascist society. Lots of Blogs and websites are certain of it. Prescott Bush's links to Nazi industry and many other examples are cited as proof that we are on the way to a new fascism which is a cleverer beast than the old one.

Howard Zinn said that after World War 2, in which he served as a bombardier he looked around and realised that fascism had not been defeated. Hitler had been defeated, Mussolini had been defeated, the Japanese Empire had been defeated, but fascism still existed, in the military, the prisons and the schools to name but a few examples.

Two of my favourite journalists are in disagreement about it. Firstly, John Pilger seems fairly convinced, recently stating that

"[An] insidious tyranny is being imposed across the world...Bush has carried out the recommendations of a Messianic conspiracy theory called the "Project for a New American Century" foresaw his administration as a military dictatorship behind a democratic facade: "the cavalry on a new American frontier" guided by a blend of paranoia and megalomania. More than 700 American bases are now the gateways to the sources of fossil fuels and encircling the Middle East and Central Asia. The powers of the president have never been greater. The judicial system has been subverted, along with civil liberties. The former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who once prepared the White House daily briefing, told me that the authors of the PNAC and those now occupying positions of executive power used to be known in Washington as "the crazies". He said, "We should now be very worried about fascism".

George Monbiot disagrees. He believes that there is a precedent for the Bush project but it is not fascism...

"Puritanism was primarily the religion of the new commercial classes. It attracted traders, money lenders, bankers and industrialists. Calvin had given them what the old order could not: a theological justification of commerce. Capitalism, in his teachings, was not unchristian, but could be used for the glorification of God. From his doctrine of individual purification, the late Puritans forged a new theology.

At its heart was an "idealization of personal responsibility" before God. This rapidly turned into "a theory of individual rights" in which "the traditional scheme of Christian virtues was almost exactly reversed". By the mid-17th Century, most English Puritans saw in poverty "not a misfortune to be pitied and relieved, but a moral failing to be condemned, and in riches, not an object of suspicion...but the blessing which rewards the triumph of energy and will."

So why has this ideology resurfaced in 2004? Because it has to. The enrichment of the elite and impoverishment of the lower classes requires a justifying ideology if it is to be sustained. In the United States this ideology has to be a religious one. Bush's government is forced back to the doctrines of Puritanism as an historical necessity. If we are to understand what it's up to, we must look not to the 1930s, but to the 1630s."

Monbiot's piece also covers the militarism and glorification of it that comes with the government currently in power in the US. He fits that into the model by saying that the late puritans are characterised as people who believed that "the world exists not to be enjoyed, but to be conquered. Only its conqueror deserves the name of Christian."

Fascism was defined by Mussolini as the merging of corporate and state power. Corporations now dominate states by lobbying them to death, putting their own men in (Cheney, Lord Sainsbury etc), or threatening to leave for other places and deny the nation the capital, but there is still state power to stop them.

Noam Chomsky has described a form of 'anti-politics.' Essentially, what he means by it is that corporations are 'unaccountable private tyrannies' and in their terms government has a flaw, which corporations do not have, which is that it is potentially democratic. Therefore corporate interests encourage anger to be directed at the government or things that are not real (e.g. all encompassing Jewish conspiracies, Communist conspiracies, massive terrorist networks and so on). This keeps public resentment and anger from focusing on anything except where power really lies - the corporations.

Currently, nation states are almost entirely under the heel of the large corporations but there is at least the potential to wrest some of the power back. I am not sure whether what exists at the moment is "military dictatorship behind a democratic facade" or whether it is some form of corporate mercantilism - a case can be made for both of these positions. There is one thing that is certain though. As distasteful as the politics and politicians of this time are, if we leave the corporations to keep having quiet words in their ears while we howl at the moon then we will be left with something much worse than the already diabolical position we are in now.

More activist time should be focused on the corporate world. In some sense every attack on the political systems gives the corporations the excuse they need to step into the void, citing their false claims to greater efficiency and taking ever more power for themselves. I do not say this because I am a fan of the current UK or US system of sham democracy, far from it. But it pays to be aware when you might be fighting someone else's battles for them.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 4:42 pm  
  • At 8:05 pm, Blogger GraemeAnfinson said…

    great post. Now, how do you tell people how much corporations influence their daily lives without them thinking you are a consipracy theorist?

  • At 1:23 am, Blogger Keir said…

    Michael, on the subject of the US as a proto-fascist state I think some very good work has been written by Paul Street. He has a blog through ZNet if you're interested. Also---I seem to recommend this a lot these days---there's a great essay called "Ur-Fascism" by Umberto Eco.

    I think you're right that large corporations should be the focus of more activist energy. Street suggests that certain media institutions should also be a major target. Anyway I don't think Pilger's and Monbiot's views are mutually exclusive; imagine you're some scumbag like Bush or Cheney and you get up in the morning and think "why not have both?"

  • At 8:07 am, Blogger edjog said…

    Hey michael, well thought out and researched. I'm planning a long post of my own on similar topics but i'm still ammassing the evidence and cogitating, so i'll not say more now.

    Have some satire to be going on with:

    "Tough on mice, tough on the causes of mice!"
    DLA proudly supports Al Chaeseda!

  • At 8:45 am, Blogger Neil Shakespeare said…

    The Corpocracy is definitely upon us.

  • At 2:19 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    graeme - i think adbusters do a good job. the link is in my link section.

    keir - will look at the paul street and Umberto thing stuff, and i see what you mean.

    edjog - keep me posted

    meil - aye (its time to get all scottish about it. i am just about to add this to the post. i forgot earlier. and yes he does know what he is doing

  • At 12:21 am, Blogger Duke Skorich said…

    There were 150 community gatherings in the States last weekend - and I understand more this weekend - primarily concerning Iraq, but I want to quickly relate what happened at one I moderated today in northern Minnesota. We had 150 attendees, and while I was instructed to keep people on topic, they quickly determined they wanted to talk almost exclusively about the Fascist dictatorship of George W. Bush. Now, as flammatory as this might have gotten, I was pleased that the attendees stayed focused, citing reference materials we might all read and explore, and what citizens in the States need to do to take back their government - beginning at the grass roots in their local communities. I came away feeling far more optimistic, but do wonder how long I'll feel that way as our President joins with others in ramping up the rhetoric and saber rattling about "grave threats".
    Thanks for letting me go on - like the changes you've made on the site.

  • At 9:29 pm, Blogger porchwise said…

    My son sent me the Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky book "Manufacturing Consent" and it should be high school required reading. Interesting and sometimes frightening insight on corporate control.

  • At 11:13 pm, Blogger Toni Kramer said…

    It is a nice start to realize that some people do not know what fascism means. Unfortunately it doesn't get any better if one confuses fascism, nazism and the situation in the United States like you do.

    Most striking however is that while the United States politics are certainly unpopular at the moment, you lack to identify the core features of a so-called fascist society. You might have realized, that there is a big discourse about all the things going on in the US right now. There is a discourse on torture, there is a discourse on the war on Iraq and there is a discourse on Creationism. And all those discourses are necessary but certainly impossible in fascist societies.

    Talking about Nazism or National Socialism your lack of historical knowledge is striking. It is ridiculous to compare German National Socialism whith your imagined rule of the big corporations. National Socialism was directed against this rule, it was directed against what they called the "greedy capital" opposed to the german "honest workers". It understood itself as a movement against the "Jewish World Capital" and employed very similar patterns of moralising that are employed by people like you.

    Graemeanfinson asks in a comment how you want to get your so-called "knowledge" accross to the people without being considered a conspiracy theorist. In fact
    that in itself is euphemistic. Theory means abstraction from the concrete. It tries to fit single events into an abstract context of higher complication. A conspiracy theory does exactly the opposite. It tries to simplify abstract and complicated social relations in personifications, nowadays preferedly in Bush and Blair or Sharon. A conspiracy theory is therefore not a theory in the original sence but rather plain populism, a simplification of relations that might otherwise be hard to understand.

    This technique, the conspiracy theory is the theoretical core not only of national socialism but also of stalinism. It is the
    theory of those, who are too afraid to acknowledge that they are as much part of this system of exploitation, partriachy,
    racism and anti-semitism (sometimes hidden in so called anti-zionism) as any manager,
    company boss or polititian.

    In this regard, a lot of people from the so-called left are as close to the ideology of national-socialism as one can possibly be.

  • At 10:01 am, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    people like me?

    you don't know me.

    Not all fascism looks like adolf hitler.

    Big corporations were intrinsically involved in the nazi project. hitler had a lot of support from major industrialists, despite the rhetoric.

    i have seen this "it's the left who are the nazi's" talk in several places. this comes with people who try to label anyone who disagrees with some of what the state of israel does as 'anti-semitic'.

    well, i for one have never advocated aggressive war, draconian security legislation (patriot act. terrorism bill). i do not advocate detention without trial or torture. I believe in total freedom of speech, obviously including people who disagree with me - just like you.

    i am wondering which part of this brings me close to National socialism?

  • At 8:45 am, Blogger enigma4ever said…

    Hey there Micheal- enigma here- you really did a wonderful job on this post, you carefully explained and delineated the differences concerning Fascism, the important thing is that no the players are not the same and their tactics are not the same, but the damage and the level of destruction upon a society can be measured and defined- and hence the Diagnosis of fascism revealed- the previous commenter ( mr Kramer) is wrong, and his historical and philosophical focus are even askew- you had the picture right friend...When Corporations and Government form an incestual relationship and decide to rule for themsleves not the people- Trouble is a'brewing....keep writing and blogging and thinking...people here in the States are fed up with the be honest I have lived in three states under his regime- and I don't know a soul who voted for this regime- not ONE....they are dangerous and is scary times here in the States...but we are doing our best to get them out...and soon...

  • At 12:13 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    yeah, scary it is.

    and our PM is his poodle.

    for the record, the last time the UK said not to the USA was vietnam

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What is Tubthumping and who is doing it?

Name: michael the tubthumper
Home: Glasgow, Scotland
About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant. 28 years old, I write and research for a couple of websites and also do my own stuff.
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Thumping The Tub Video

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I have made a few short movies. Here are links to free downloads for them all in the order that I made them (as far as I can remember). Please feel free to use, distribute, disagree with, shout at etc etc

  • Praise The Lord and Pass The Ammunition
  • This was a REAL song from World War 2. I was so stunned by it I had to make a movie

  • How Far Is It From Here to Nuremberg
  • This is my attempt at a video for the excellent, if worrying, David Rovics (see links) song

  • What You Like
  • I believe the word for this is "splenetic". Only 20 seconds long.

  • Imperial Measures
  • What is going on in Iraq? Some things you knew, some you didn't. A couple of bits of info are out of date now.

  • Wish You Were Here
  • Wish You Were Here is a 6 minute film about the unprecendted rate of animal extinction we are currently experiencing

  • Gorillas and us
  • I don't like creationism, neither did Douglas Adams

    Recent Thumping
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  • spinwatch
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  • internet archive
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  • campaign for press freedom
  • noam chomsky
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  • cost of war
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    some of the blogs I look at
    Arse of the month

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    The inaugural 'Arse of the month' award goes to our very own Scottish First Minister Jack (Joke) McConnell. He seems to spend a lot of his time sucking up to english politicians and yet it appears they don't even know his name. Follow the link to see..

    It's All Gone Scottish

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    A list of some other Scottish sites and blogs most of which, if not all, are pro-independence. I don't agree with content on all of them obviously. Some are Scots at home, others abroad.

  • The Scottish Patient
  • Kim Ayres
  • Our Scotland
  • average tosser
  • 1820
  • big stick small carrot
  • J. Arthur MacNumpty
  • World of Jack McConnell
  • The Firefox Chronicles
  • Independence 1st
  • Radio Free Scotland
  • Scots and independent
  • Scottish Independence Guide
  • Small Nation
  • Inveresk Street Ingrate
  • Radical Glasgow
  • Want to Swot?

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    If you like this site and think it is time to start getting informed here are a few real favourites of mine that will help you blow away the corporate and government propaganda you are constantly bombarded with. It is added to every so often.

  • politics and the english language
  • Beyond Hope
  • the gore exception
  • your tax dollars at work
  • a cultural chernobyl
  • choose life (not trainspotting)
  • shooting an elephant
  • a war crime within a war crime...
  • the menace of liberal scholarship
  • the modern era of law
  • naming the problem
  • the four ages of sand
  • a news revolution has begun
  • come september
  • money is the cause of poverty
  • countering corporate power
  • Other Stuff

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