Month: April 2017

Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms

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By Harvey Wasserman

(originally published by Truth Dig on April 25, 2017)

 

Marine Le Pen is the latest fascist to be called a “Right Wing Populist” by the corporate media.

There is no such thing.

Let’s be clear: Populists are leftists. We support human rights, social democracy, peace and ecological sanity.

“Populists of the Right” are fascists. Their goal has a clear definition, as put forward by the term’s originator, Benito Mussolini: “Corporate control of the state.”

When they take power, they become National Socialists, using the government to enrich the corporations and the rich, rather than Democratic Socialists, or social democrats, using the state to serve the people.

Fascists support enriching the rich and to hell with the rest of us. They are racist, misogynist, anti-ecological, militaristic and authoritarian. They hate democracy, freedom of speech and an open media. They take power by fomenting hate and division. Le Pen, now in in the runoff for the leadership of France, is a classic fascist, as is her American counterpart, Donald Trump.

The term “populist” has a clear historical origin in the United States. It’s important we claim it.

Populist was the name taken by radical farmers in the late 1800s who fought for social and economic justice against the robber baron elite. The Morgans, Rockefellers and their ilk had captured the industrial revolution that dominated the U.S. after the Civil War.

The farmers of the South and West fought back with a grass-roots social movement. They formed the People’s Party. Its socialistic platforms demanded public ownership of the major financial institutions, including banks, railways, power utilities and other private monopolies that were crushing the public well-being.

At their national conventions in Omaha in 1892, and St. Louis in 1896, and elsewhere, they demanded an end to corporate and foreign ownership of land. They wanted a national currency based on food rather than gold and silver. They endorsed universal affordable medical care, free public education and a general guarantee of the basics of life for all humans. They demanded equal rights for women, including the vote.

They also preached racial unity, especially among black and white farmers in the South, and between native and immigrant workers in the cities.

In the political quagmire of the Gilded Age, the Populists had three huge barriers to overcome.

Their power depended first on uniting white farmers in the South and West. But many had fought each other in the Civil War. So in 1892 the party nominated for president James B. Weaver of Iowa, a former general in the Union Army. His running mate was James G. Field of Virginia, once a Confederate officer and attorney general of Virginia.

The party also had to unite the races in the South. For centuries whites had been at the throats of black slaves, and then of impoverished freedmen and women. But almost miraculously the Populists managed by the 1890s to form significant alliances between the races. A critical pioneer was Tom Watson, a Georgia lawyer the Populists chose for vice president in 1896.

The People’s Party also had to ally its primarily rural constituency with the largely immigrant working class masses of the cities. For that a radical faction wanted to nominate for president in 1896 the great Indiana labor leader Eugene V. Debs, who was imprisoned for leading a national rail strike the previous year.

But tragedy struck in the form of Congressman William Jennings Bryan. A young, 36-year-old Nebraska Democrat, Bryan adopted populist rhetoric and captured the Democratic nomination, pledging to coin silver, an inflationary move that would raise food prices and lower the real cost of mortgages.

Raised an evangelical, Bryan was a spellbinding speaker who convinced the western farmers he would bring real change. With catastrophic consequences, he got a bitterly divided 1896 Populist Convention to endorse him. Debs, who was in jail at the time, also backed Bryan, a move he later deeply regretted.

Bryan then stabbed them all in the back. He took a Maine banker for his vice president. He pointedly ignored the Populist Watson and the party’s humanist platform. And he proceeded to lose the general election to Ohio’s very corporate Senator William McKinley, a robber baron puppet. As president, McKinley promptly birthed the modern American empire with the annexation of Hawaii and a Spanish-American War that conquered Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

In the wake of betrayal and defeat, the Populist Party collapsed. The Westerners and the Southerners parted company. The southern whites, including Watson, turned on the blacks, blaming them for the 1896 defeat.

Historians often cite venal Southerners like “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman as being racist populists. But Tillman and his ilk were always Democrats, and—like Bryan—had never embraced the Populists’ programs for peace and social justice.

Debs went on to lead the Socialist Party, running for president five times. His last campaign came from his federal cell in Atlanta because another Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, had him imprisoned for opposing America’s entry into World War I.

A hero to ensuing generations of social democrats, including Bernie Sanders, Debs knew the difference between populists of the left and fascists of the right.

While devious Democrats like Bryan and Wilson filched populist rhetoric, they fought the core People’s Party beliefs in social justice and economic equality. Wilson was a vicious racist who used imperial war to crush America’s Socialist Party.

And today’s “Populists of the Right,” i.e., fascists, take it even further. They cynically spew snippets of grass-roots rhetoric to attract a working-class constituency. But they violently oppose the rights of the working class, as well as those committed to social justice, economic equality, peace and ecology.

The fascists’ divide-and-conquer scapegoating embodies the precise opposite of real populism. Their small-minded meanness of spirit and blatant greed contradict everything the People’s and Socialist Parties stood for.

Led now by France’s Le Pen, America’s Trump and so many others, the core corporate values of Kleptocracy, war mongering, racism, misogyny, homophobia and ecological contempt can be seen in sibling reactionaries throughout Europe, in Russia’s Putin, in the Philippines’ murderous Duterte and among countless corporate dictators in developing nations.

There is nothing “populist” about these thugs and thieves except the media’s use of the term to describe them.

The “F” word applies. It is FASCIST. It’s time to use it—and to reclaim the true meaning of populism, in all its humanistic glory.

 

RESTORE SANITY: A Mass Nonviolent Satyagraha Campaign to Remove Donald Trump

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By Lila Garrett, David Swanson, Suzanne Patzer, Bob Fitrakis, Ruthie Sakheim, Harvey Wasserman and many more …

(originally published on Reader Supported News on April 17, 2017)

he unthinkable is upon us.

A president of the United States poses a clear and present danger to our global survival. It’s become our duty to remove him soon, beyond the electoral system, and strictly without violence.

Syria:

President Trump’s random missile attack is the predictable martial diversion for a failing regime. Had Barack Obama done it the entire right wing would be screaming for impeachment.

To justify an impetuous fling, Trump summoned images of chemical weapons killing helpless children. But had those kids been refugees trying to come here, Trump might well have barred them, and derided their parents.

This chaotic regime’s military adventures have already killed innumerable innocents in Yemen and elsewhere for no apparent reason. Had this attack targeted North Korea, or another nuclear-armed nation, mushroom clouds might now be ending human life on Earth.

Meanwhile:

This regime is cynically assaulting our global ecosystems, the rising green infrastructure on which our ecological and economic future depends, as well as women, people of color, the poor, the elderly, the infirm. Trump has polluted the White House with an outrageous culture of personal gain at public expense.

Donald Trump lost the 2016 election by at least 2.8 million popular votes. He lost the exit polls in the five states that swung the Electoral College. GOP secretaries of state used Crosscheck and other computer programs to disenfranchise countless citizens of color. They may well have flipped the electronic voting machines on which 80% of the nation’s ballots were cast or counted.

Without a legitimate electoral process, and saddled with a timid corporatist Democratic Party, how do we respond?

Two US presidents have been impeached but not removed. Richard Nixon resigned in the face of a massive popular upheaval. By his own admission, that uprising prevented him from using nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

Donald Trump is the corporatist response to a rising social fervor that speaks for the soul of this nation. Bernie Sanders remains America’s most popular politician. Even in the face of a totally corrupted governmental structure, we must never underestimate our larger power.

As with Nixon, the madness of today’s White House demands a whole new level of organizing, resistance and overthrow, of “satyagraha” – focused peaceful action – pioneered by the American independence, abolitionist, suffragette and labor movements, by Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India campaign, Dr. Martin Luther King’s work for civil rights, the nonviolent resistance that helped bring down the Soviet Union, Nelson Mandala’s victory against South African apartheid, the Otpor campaign against Serbia’s Milosevic dictatorship, the global feminist, No Nukes, LGBTQ+, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Sandernista campaigns, and many more.

Today there are no simple answers, except to be civil in our disobedience. Any violence must be assumed to come from those who want us to fail.

Our way forward might include mass rallies, marches, boycotts, strikes, non-cooperation, tax resistance, guerrilla theater, door-to-door conversation, and much more we may not yet envision.

The great nonviolent strategist Gene Sharp lists some 200 such tactics at his legendary Einstein Institute. Mark and Paul Engler beautifully explore nonviolent activism in their “This Is an Uprising” (www.nationbooks.org). Jim Hightower has gracefully mentioned some longer-term solutions in his latest column.

As with Nixon, we suspect that somewhere in the corrupt chaos of Trump’s towering arrogance, we will find the critical overreach.

And somewhere in the mix of our own relentless activism, there will be the power to make that matter.

Our nation was born of an impossible campaign that overthrew a tyrant.

To RESTORE SANITY in today’s nuclear age we may need even more creativity, imagination and good faith.

But we had damn well better win fast, before this madman kills us all.

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To join in, go to www.restoresanity.us or www.Solartopia.org, where hats, bumper stickers, etc. are available.

a purple hat

 

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