Tuesday, June 16, 2009

News of the Week

by Norman Markowitz

I thought I would write some commentary for the blog on current events which I haven't done for a while since I have been working on many things.

First, there was the Holocaust Museum murder I wrote an angry internet response to the New York Times about their coverage of the the atrocity. "Lone Wolf radical," "white Supremacist," "anti-government extremist, "Holocaust denier," the 88 year old murderer was called everything except an American fascist, although his Internet connections to fascist groups was noted but not analyzed by anyone.

In my email, I mentioned the insight of the Comintern concerning American fascism, that it does not glorify the state, as European fascists do, but adopts "anti-government" rhetoric, talks about liberty and freedom as it forms paramilitary groups to terrorize the left, persecute minorities, attack the foreign born, and seek to take control of the government whose power it condemns. In short, it this is a distinction without any real difference.

There were also classic liberal studies of downwardly mobile old middle class people, failures in business or the professions, either because of their own inadequacies or because of economic crisis, who gravitated to fascist movements. The killer in this case had graduated from Washington University in St. Louis before WWII and had worked in a major Madison Avenue advertising agency after the war. He had come from a world where racism and anti-Antisemitism were normal in the establishment circles that he seems to have identified with. Fascists always believe they are fighting for a better yesterday, to restore a glorified past, whether it is a Third Reich or a frontier white America.

Comparing this killer to various "lone wolf" sociopaths across the political spectrum does more to obscure the danger of American fascism today, where the economic crisis creates the likelihood that many middle managers and supervisors and sales people who came of age in the Reagan era and accepted its political economy as permanent now face rapid downward mobility, and with it the real danger that they can be organized into a fascist formation as they were in many other countries.

Progressive groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center especially track these groups and analyze their changing tactics, but it is important that the Obama administration do more of this and also that the ideological connections between such groups and the "respectable right" in the Republican party which crusades against illegal immigrants, calls affirmative action "reverse racism" and be made exposed. There has been a political culture in the U.S. since the Reagan became president which has nurtured those who murder doctors who perform abortions, form "anti-government" militias, paramilitary groups to protect the borders from undocumented workers, police sweeps in poor and minority neighborhoods that treat innocent bystanders as "collateral damage" and this too must be addressed.

Speaking of Holocaust denial, there are interesting developments in Iran, where the clerical regime has declared Ahmadinejad the winner to the disbelief of large sections of the Iranian population. In reality, Ahmadinejad is not the real power in the country – the Supreme religious leader is. But his policies of heightened internal repression and social and international demagoguery have obviously harmed the great majority of the people of Iran, even though his theatrical battles with the U.S. and Israeli governments played well in many circles (his holding a Holocaust Denial conference which brought together such figures as former Nazi and Klan figure David Duke from the U.S. with many European fascists and even a few ultra Orthodox Jews opposed to Israel's existence on theological grounds didn't play too well anywhere, even among many fascists who do not see the Iranians or Muslims for that matter as "honorary white people" the way Hitler saw his Japanese allies as "honorary Aryans."

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical-Insurance Complex aka the health care industry is gearing up for the most important battle on health care in many years. The crisis within the system is deepening as it desperately seeks to cut costs to increase profits. Copays are rising in the present insurance based system and there are unexplained costs. In my own case I am trying (so far not successfully) to find out why I as the primary insurance holder an paying less than half of the copay which my wife pays for the same service. Also, as a minor inconvenience, I and others here in the New Jersey State Plan have to send in copies of our marriage certificates by a certain date to prove that we are married or else our spouses can be removed from the program(. While this is not a great problem since I send in a copy of a marriage certicificate, I have been married for nearly eighteen years and this has never happened before. I can imagine that for some people married abroad or married much longer where records are not so well kept it could be a problem. This is being "administered" by a consulting firm which no doubt will score points by removing people from the State Health Plan. And I, along with New Jersey State employees generally, have much better overall health coverage than the majority of Americans.

The Obama administration is also gearing up for the Sotomayor nomination. Today I gave a talk before a group of union retirees on the Supreme Court battle, stressing the importance of building a progressive majority on the Supreme Court, the most powerful court in the world. While nobody in the group was a conservative, the chair played devil's advocate by mentioning the rightwing talk radio arguments against Sotomayor, portraying her as a "racist" for saying that her background as a Puerto Rican woman would give her a different perspective than a white male, mocking her as an "affirmative action appointment" and denigrating her record as both a law student and attorney and a judge (which is outstanding). I contended that most of
this is simply false and to "debate" with the rightwing is largely self-defeating, since they in the tradition of the late Joe McCarthy use the tactic of the "multiple untruth" bombarding their listeners with false information, jumping from one thing to another and daring you to run after them.

There was also an important story about McCarthyism in the press today, that is the ongoing struggle to release documents of the New York City School purges of the 1950s, but I will get back to that later because I have a Summer School class to teach very soon and must prepare for it.