Undercurrents of American fascism

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On January 6, 2021, a mob incited by outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump, stormed the U.S. capital in an attempt to halt the congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Within the mob, as the scholar Gabriel Rockhill points out, were many current members of the military and police. Some of the leaders of the organizations involved, such as Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio and Joseph Biggs, had direct ties to U.S. intelligence agencies, having served as FBI informants. Only one fifth of Capitol Police were on duty that day, and they were unprepared and under-equipped, even though the U.S. national security state had advance knowledge of the plot. Capitol Police were seen opening barricades and fraternizing with the mob.

The assault raises questions about how deeply fascist undercurrents run within the ruling elites and organs of state security. How much of the ruling capitalist class backed the organizations behind the assault on the Capitol? To what extent are proto-fascist groups such as the Proud Boys “astroturfed” by them (meaning discretely funded to create the illusion of a grassroots movement from below)? What was the exact ratio and relationship between state agents and the para-state—i.e. vigilante—actors? Was this solely an organic conflict between the Trump and Biden camps, or was something more at play? And what does all this portend for the future, especially given the staggering levels of social inequality, deep financial wounds cause by the pandemic and decision by the Biden administration to walk back from its tepid campaign promises, including raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. Is this a moment of rising fascism in American society? And is prefigured by the attempt by the ruling elites in the 1930s to carry out a fascist coup with the breakdown of capitalism? Is this where we are headed?

Gabriel Rockhill is professor of philosophy at Villanova University.

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