“It’s Still the Corporate State, Stupid”

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini (possibly apocryphal.)

This morning Glenn Greenwald smacks down Fred Hiatt’s stupid argument in the Washington Post that telecoms should be immune to lawsuits for past breaches of privacy because, well, lawsuits cost alot. In Hiatt’s Beltwayese: 

The biggest sticking point — and the biggest difference between the Senate bill and a measure backed by the House intelligence and judiciary committees — doesn’t involve the terms under which surveillance would be conducted. Rather, it concerns the question of retroactive immunity from lawsuits for communications providers that cooperated with the administration’s warrantless surveillance program. As we have said, we do not believe that these companies should be held hostage to costly litigation in what is essentially a complaint about administration activities.

Greenwald’s points that the telecoms a) have enough resources to defend themselves, and b) broke laws, are well taken to be sure. The missing and major point, in my view, is this: The role of the telecoms in domestic spying is integral to America’s slippery slide into becoming the world’s first 21st Century Major Fascist Country.

In his article titled “It’s the Corporate State, Stupid,” David G. Mills observed this obvious but overlooked point in 2004:

The early twentieth century Italians, who invented the word fascism, also had a more descriptive term for the concept — estato corporativo: the corporatist state. Unfortunately for Americans, we have come to equate fascism with its symptoms, not with its structure. The structure of fascism is corporatism, or the corporate state. The structure of fascism is the union, marriage, merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power. Failing to understand fascism, as the consolidation of corporate economic and governmental power in the hands of a few, is to completely misunderstand what fascism is. It is the consolidation of this power that produces the demagogues and regimes we understand as fascist ones.

While we Americans have been trained to keenly identify the opposite of fascism, i.e., government intrusion into and usurpation of private enterprise, we have not been trained to identify the usurpation of government by private enterprise. Our European cousins, on the other hand, having lived with Fascism in several European countries during the last century, know it when they see it, and looking over here, they are ringing the alarm bells. We need to learn how to recognize Fascism now.

Now it’s indelicate for politicians, especially those aspiring to national office, to use the “F” word in public.  Yet at least we might hope that a few might connect the fascistic dots and at least hint at them publicly. Except that, oh yeah, corporate money determines any candidate’s viability.

Thus has Ralph Nader alone, to my memory, hinted at the connecting dots.

Hillary Clinton beats around the bush (no pun intended), promising to review the excesses of the executive branch.

Well, I think it is clear that the power grab undertaken by the Bush-Cheney administration has gone much further than any other president and has been sustained for longer. Other presidents, like Lincoln, have had to take on extraordinary powers but would later go to the Congress for either ratification or rejection. But when you take the view that they’re not extraordinary powers, but they’re inherent powers that reside in the office and therefore you have neither obligation to request permission nor to ask for ratification, we’re in a new territory here. And I think that I’m gonna have to review everything they’ve done because I’ve been on the receiving end of that. There were a lot of actions which they took that were clearly beyond any power the Congress would have granted or that in my view that was inherent in the constitution. There were other actions they’ve taken which could have obtained congressional authorization but they deliberately chose not to pursue it as a matter of principle.

Do you like that Lincoln hedge? Me neither. Then again, Senator Clinton is known for her coziness with corporations. So perhaps her proposed review will be undertaken with an aim towards something like “F-word Lite.”

Pessimistic? So was David Mills:

As I have pondered what could be done about America’s steady march toward the fascist state, I also have pondered what can be done internally to stop it. The Germans couldn’t seem to do it. The Italians couldn’t seem to do it. The only lesson from recent history where an indigenous people seemed to have uncoupled the merger of economic power with governmental power is the French Revolution. The soft underbelly of consolidated economic power is that the power resides in the hands of a few. Cut off the money supply of the few and the merger between economic power and government becomes unglued. The French systematically took out their aristocracy one by one. It was ugly; the French couldn’t seem to figure out when there had been enough bloodletting to solve the problem.

The thought of an American twenty-first century French Revolution is ugly. But the thought of an American twenty-first century fascist state is far uglier. It would be a supreme irony that the state most responsible for stopping worldwide fascism would become fascist 60 years later. But far worse than this irony is the reality that an American fascist state with America’s power could make Nazi Germany look like a tiny blip on the radar screen of history.

Except that mentioning the French Revolution might someday constitute grounds for arresting you for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Unless, of course the “review” undertaken by a Clinton II administration goes well.

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