The New Year in the Shadow of Fascism: Trump Condemns Any Increase in Minimum Wage Because “Wages Are Too High” Despite Historical Evidence That a Low Wage Economy Is a Disaster; A Distant Mirror for the Trump Fascist Movement Is the Savage Attack on Real Wages Under Mussolini and Hitler: Italian Workers Took Pay Cuts of 60% to 75% Over a Dozen Years, While German Wages Fell Between 25% and 40% in Just Two Years; – But Can Fascism Really Happen Here?

UFAAUnited Front Against Austerity | TWSPTax Wall Street Party

Morning Briefing | Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In the view of the Tax Wall Street Party, a basic understanding of fascism has now become an indispensable part of the conceptual equipment needed by the average voter to be able to cast a responsible ballot in the party presidential preference primaries and in the November general election.

So far we have studied the role of irrationalism and myth in fascism, and then turned our attention to the art of fascist demagogy, which consists in posturing as an anti-establishment radical, while at the same time carefully avoiding any real challenge to the exorbitant power and privilege of the Wall Street financier oligarchy. We now turn to the implications of fascism for working people, with special attention to the attack on real wages and standards of living which it is the task of fascism. This topic has explosive implications for the Trump fascist movement, since we see here the typical fascist combination of middle-class types together with a scattering of workers in the service of a super-rich speculator and parasite.

Fascism, once again, should be seen as the terrorist dictatorship of bankers and financiers, carried out with the help of fascist politicians and also of fascist thugs, goon squads, and assorted storm troopers. Fascism typically is conjured up by its wealthy backers in response to a challenge to the power and privileges of the financiers, especially when this challenge cannot be warded off within the framework of normal parliamentary or congressional democracy. Illegal violence is then used in defense of an obsolete and dysfunctional social order based on oligarchical supremacy.

Fascism therefore contains illegal elements from its very beginning. But at the same time, fascism attempts to preserve the illusion of legality, even though daily violence and critical crimes against the constitutional order of the targeted countries are all perpetrated from the outset.

In both Italian fascism and German Nazism, the first stage is the deployment of thugs, goon squads, and strikebreakers as a kind of anti-worker militia. In both cases, the black shirted squadristi and the brown shirted storm troopers (Sturmabteilungen) use all kinds of violence and arson to break up the self-defense organizations of working people. Picket lines are attacked and dispersed and party offices and political newspapers are ransacked, with printing presses vandalized and destroyed. Key anti-fascist spokesperson are beaten up or assassinated.

So far, overt violence in the Trump campaign has been limited to his supporters and campaign workers beating up black, Latino, and other protesters heckling Trump at his rallies. But it is significant that Trump has generally encouraged and approved such goon violence from his speaker’s podium. (In the case of the Cruz campaign, the violent component is represented by anti-abortion organizations which systematically incite violence against medical doctors working in women’s health clinics.) If the Trump campaign continues into the spring and summer of 2016, we may well witness more dramatic episodes of violence, perhaps culminating at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Eventually, Trump will feel the need to deliver on his language of intimidations, threats, and bullying.

The role of these fascist militias as primarily directed towards strike breaking changes once the fascist forces decide that they are ready to contend directly for state power. During the second phase, fascist tactics and strategy must respect the need to maintain the illusion of law and order on the one hand, while at the same time providing enough violent street action to keep the loyalties of the thugs and goons which fascism has attracted along the way. In the United States, these problems are not as acute, since at least some of these functions can be carried out using the omnipresent mass media to take advantage of the atomization and fragmentation of a population in which many people do not belong to any mass organizations at all.

After the seizure of power, fascism continues in its task of destroying any self-defense organizations which might try to oppose its austerity decrees. During the first phase of fascism, this effort was carried out through violence in the streets. During the third phase, when fascism has taken power, the police and the army can be unleashed under color of law against strikes and protests. Independent class-based organizations are generally smashed, and the remaining pieces, re-organized. In Italy, fascist unions replaced those that previously existed, including the yellow or company unions. In Germany, many unemployed workers were forced to join the Nazi Labor Front, a form of quasi-military regimentation.

In the Republican Party of today, virtually all candidates are in favor of forcing every state to become a union-busting or “right to work” state. Trump is unlikely to reveal his current views on this subject, but it can be safely assumed that he will conform to the general anti-labor and anti-worker profile of the GOP. Any wage earner who votes for Trump should have their head examined.

News item shows that Trump’s true attitude toward union and collective bargaining is to destroy them. In spite of this obvious reality some trade union bureaucrats including the teamsters may be considering endorsing the anti-labor tyrant.

Fascism aims at undermining the wage levels which working people had attained through decades of labor struggles. In the case of Italy, Daniel Guérin reports that between 1927 and 1932, nominal wages were cut in half. This means that the decline in purchasing power, if measured in terms of deflated currency over this same time frame, would be even more dramatic. Guérin’s conclusion is that over the longer time span of 1927 to 1935, nominal wages in Italy were reduced by approximately 60 to 75%. (An American reader might consider this almost a physical impossibility, but such a reader should be reminded that real wages in this country have come down by about two thirds, between the early 1970s and today. As Adam Smith said, there is a lot of ruin in a nation.) Italian workers also had to pay a multitude of taxes, deductions and subtractions, including income tax, compulsory dues for the fascist trade union, allegedly voluntary contributions to alleviate poverty, especially in winter, plus premiums for social insurance, fascist party dues, and contributions for fascist organizations dedicated to leisure activities. Unemployment insurance was introduced, but the entire cost was taken from taxes on those lucky enough to still be employed. Hiring and firing was made much easier. Young people and women were forced to give up their jobs to the adult male unemployed, but the latter kept receiving the reduced wages usually assigned to youth and females.

In the case of Germany, it appears that the first months of Nazi hegemony from January 1933 until the summer of 1935 witnessed a wage cut of between 25% and 40%. Guérin estimates that, for many categories of workers, their 1935 wages had fallen below the unemployment insurance payments that were maintained until the end of the Weimar Republic in 1932/1933. 80% of all German workers were earning less than 150 marks per month. Hitler acknowledged that “the living standard of numerous Germans is completely inadequate,” while a minister in the Bavarian government lamented that “many German workers are suffering from hunger.”

Nazi Germany followed the example of fascist Italy by driving wages down even further with devices like a residence tax, attacks on bachelors, premiums on unemployment insurance, premiums on workman’s compensation, premiums on medical insurance, membership dues for the Labor Front, recreational organizations, and poor relief. There was even a payment to finance the antiaircraft defense for the community where the worker resided.

Forced laborers in the Nazi Labor Front, 1936: Even in peacetime, they were working for the wretched wage of one half Mark per day, the equivalent of the notoriously low allowances that the German army was paying its draftees, and completely inadequate even for the survival of one person.

Some 400,000 unemployed workers were pressed into service on various projects by state and local governments, where their compensation was the same as the new, brutally lowered, unemployment insurance payments. About 250,000 young, unemployed, were dragged into the “Voluntary” Labor Service, where they had to work for one half mark per day, the same sum received by draftees in the German Army. In 1936, Hitler boasted to the factory owners of the Ruhr region that he was giving them high quality labor at rock-bottom prices, since unemployed workers recycled into these jobs were getting paid between 1.5 marks and two marks per day. It was noted at the time that this ultra-cheap labor was pulling down wages in other sectors of production.

Nor was this all. The head of the Labor Front proclaimed that speed up of assembly lines and intensification of all tasks would be the rule in every factory. Nazi bigwig Hermann Göring warned that the eight hour day would not be enough, and that 10 or more hours of work each day would be required. This is what the dictatorship of the financier oligarchy mediated by the fascist political movements actually looked like.

Trump and his allies are certainly opposed to an increase in the minimum wage, and it is also very likely that they oppose the concept of the minimum wage in any form. Trump has expressed his contempt for government regulations. If Trump should ever come to power, he should be expected to launch a frontal assault on every vestige of the New Deal and Great Society in a way that has never been done before.

Sinclair Lewis, 1935: Can Real Fascism Happen Here?

In 1935, the great American novelist and realist Sinclair Lewis transposed European fascist practices into the United States in an effort to give the public some insights into what fascism might look like in the United States. The result was the novel It Can’t Happen Here, which is highly relevant today. Here is a summary of part of plot:

In 1936 Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a charismatic and power-hungry politician, wins the election as President of the United States on a populist platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness, and promising each citizen $5,000 a year. Portraying himself as a champion of traditional American values, Windrip easily defeats his opponents, Senator Walt Trowbridge and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Though having previously foreshadowed some authoritarian measures in order to reorganize the United States government, Windrip rapidly outlaws dissent, incarcerates political enemies in concentration camps, and trains and arms a paramilitary force called the Minute Men, who terrorize citizens and enforce the policies of Windrip and his “corporatist” regime. [Mussolini called his regime the fascist corporate state.] One of his first acts as president is to eliminate the influence of the United States Congress, which draws the ire of many citizens as well as the legislators themselves. The Minute Men respond to protests against Windrip’s decisions harshly, attacking demonstrators with bayonets. In addition to these actions, Windrip’s administration, known as the “Corpo” [corporatist, meaning set up like a medieval guild] government, curtails women’s and minority rights, and eliminates individual states by subdividing the country into administrative sectors. The government of these sectors is managed by “Corpo” authorities, usually prominent businessmen or Minute Men officers. Those accused of crimes against the government appear before kangaroo courts presided over by “military judges”. Despite these dictatorial (and “quasi-draconian”) measures, a majority of Americans approve of them, seeing them as necessary though painful steps to restore American power. Others, those less enthusiastic about the prospect of corporatism, reassure themselves that fascism cannot “happen here”; hence the novel’s title….

Later, Windrip is overthrown by his own top advisers in a palace coup and flees into exile. After a time, this is followed by a military counter-coup directed by White House insider General Dewey Haik [think of the late General Al Haig], who tries to consolidate power by “launching an unjustified invasion of Mexico. After slandering Mexico in state-run newspapers, Haik orders a mass conscription of young American men for the invasion of that country, infuriating many who had until then been staunch Corpo loyalists.” One of Haik’s top deputies defects to lead an armed resistance, and the US is engulfed in civil war. This drama was widely played before theater audiences by the Federal Theater Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). A feature film version was stopped by direct Nazi pressure on the Hollywood studios, who capitulated.

With Trump at large in the land, let no one believe that it can’t happen here.

  1. Daniel Guérin, Fascisme et grand capital (Paris: Maspéro, 1969), pp. 185 ff.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Can%27t_Happen_Here
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