Naomi Wolf on the end of America and the rise of fascism (audio)

socialist-podcast.pngEpisode #4 of the Paulitics Podcast has now been released.

This latest episode features a talk by Naomi Wolf on the topic of her new book entitled “The End of America”.

In it, Wolf discusses the historical evidence for 10 steps which are universally recognizable as benchmarks that a democracy is moving towards fascism or totalitarianism and how each of these ten steps is now being seen in one form or another in the United States under the Bush Administration.

To listen to Wolf’s talk or to download the episode, click here.

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To view past episodes of the Paulitics Podcast, click here.

8 Responses to “Naomi Wolf on the end of America and the rise of fascism (audio)”

  1. 1 RS Sukle 27 November, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    The Ten Steps of the Fascist Shift as interpreted by Naomi Wolf’ and applied to the Bush administration, could equally apply to Presidents in the 1920’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s. United States history has been through many worse times and survived.
    While researching the 1920’s for my book “The Ragman’s War,” I learned many dark secrets about the Roaring Twenties hidden in union archives, news articles from that time, and in memories of old men.
    Applying the 10 steps to the administrations of Wilson, Harding and Coolidge would have made it the 1920’s the worst decade for fascism in US history. Steel and Rail Barons controlled all branches of government and wielded their influence to keep millions of immigrant workers laboring in the mills and mines for little or no wages. Dissidents and union organizers who riled against this serf system of cheap labor that kept the Twenties stock market roaring were branded as anarchists. They were detained, deported, jailed, or murdered.
    In the mining towns the mine families were forbidden to bear arms, to assemble, to have free ingress and egress to their towns, to sing hymns, and join unions. During the 1927-28 strike in the western Pennsylvania coalfields, they had their property seized and sold at auction and were evicted from their houses even when the rent was paid. Company agents had free access to invade their homes at whim.
    Constitutional abuses in the bituminous coalfields around Pittsburgh were so bad that members of the US Senate decided to visit the area to evaluate the situation. The ACLU did their own investigation and reported their findings in a booklet titled “The Shame of Pennsylvania.”
    Don’t believe me then look it up for yourself or read “Bucket of Blood the Ragman’s War,” “The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America’s Largest Labor Uprising,” or “Storming Heavan.” Then there was the Red Scare of 1919, the Palmer Raids, and persecution of the IWW (Wobblies)? What about the Red Scare of the late 1940’s under Truman? How many communists and sympathizers were detained, deported, jailed, or went into hiding?

    The Ten Steps of the 1928 Fascist Shift:

    1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy (Communists, Wobblies, Labor Unions).

    2. Create a gulag ( Captive Coal Towns, Wobbly Interment Camps, Deportation Centers).

    3. Develop a thug caste (Coal and Iron Police, Pinkerton Men, American Legion).

    4. Set up an internal surveillance system (Paid Stool Pigeons, Mail Interception).

    5. Harass citizens’ groups (Company Sheriffs, State Troopers, County Sheriffs, Constables, Coal and Iron Police, KKK, Jim Crow Laws).

    6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release (union organizers, black lists, civil rights activists, Wobblies, innocent immigrant workers).

    7. Target key individuals (scientists, academics, journalists, artists, writers, social activists, movie producers, labor leaders and organizers).

    8. Control the press (coal, steel, and rail barons, judges, Hearst Syndicate).

    9. Dissent equals treason (Sedition Laws, Red Scare, Palmer Raids, Anti Union Laws).

    10. Suspend the rule of law (suspension of Constitutional rights for coal and steel families, Rossitor Injunctions, Coal & Steel companies rule the towns they own, their appointed agents are the law).

    OOPS!!! Wolfe forgot about suppression of free speech.

  2. 2 paulitics 28 November, 2007 at 3:41 am

    RS – You raise some very good points and I certainly agree with you. I’d be interested in reading your book, when does it come out (or is it out already)?

  3. 3 martinp 28 November, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Two things, those ten things can be said of virtually every president, and we can add most Prime Ministers of Canada. Sometimes the violence varies, and sometimes its not as necessary. Currently labour economics or jailing people works better than police thugs.

    Second, is the point about fascism itself, which is the belief that the sanctity of the ‘state’, specifically the state government, supersedes all other rights. By that measure of course virtually every government in the world is a fascist state. The UN made an attempt to put human rights above national rights, but that was a half gain at most and seems to be receding.

    Ok, three things, just because a country, specifically a country’s government ‘survived’ before is no guarantee that it will survive again. You can get illnesses all your life, but guess what, death is still going to get you and a person can be on their deathbed claiming “I survived before”, but in the end there’s still a funeral to attend. If you look at history the reason WHY the US survived all those times is because of an activist population. Like canada when grunts fought for their country, they expected a hell of a lot better than before they went to war. Many of the victims of the civil rights murders were former infantrymen, you can watch any number of specials on that. Most of these guys said they were treated better as POW’s in Germany than by their own government when they returned home. However, after living through that, they simply said they weren’t going to take it anymore. Times now are far different. Its an unpopular war, but not enough to get the kinds of riots that led to diminished troops overseas because they were needed for civil discontent. A large percentage of troops are now immigrants working for citizenship, and private companies, so Joe Public isn’t as likely to get politically involved.

    The US certainly has more tools available than most countries to ‘get back on its feet’, however, nazi germany was a representative government too, and you can just take a look at all the ‘executive orders’ that Bush has enabled for the President to essentially declare martial law. That has some historical precedence as well, in fact I believe there was a case where there was almost a coup in the states by the business class earlier last century. But surviving once doesn’t mean surviving all the time…unless we are just talking about the land itself, then yes, no doubt it WILL survive, but that means nothing about forms of government.

  4. 4 Doug 30 November, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Grrr…I detest these formulaic, ahistorical definitions. I think the contributors here point out that these things already exist and have already existed – all at once – in previous periods of US and Canadian history, and basically the history of almost any state since c.1800. I mean, her points are in fact true, but they don’t provide ANY analytical process. It’s just a list to check off.

    There seems to be a fundamental confusion between capitalism and fascism. Deriding these standard operating procedures of the capitalist system as fascist let’s capitalism off the hook. I think this has largely to do with the illusion that the historically transient form of Western liberal democratic capitalism from c.1945-1973 – the longest sustained boom ever under capitalism and the high point of the welfare state in the West – is in fact the default setting for our societies. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and a whole lot of impressionism and nostalgia also tend to paint “back then” as somehow better (it was still a very shitty period for the vast majority of humanity).

    Anyway, my point is, we need a historical definition of fascism and that has been aptly provided and developed by many Marxists coming from an anti-Stalinist tradition, namely those who follow Trotsky who most clearly identified what fascism was (though he wasn’t obviously the only person) – it is essentially a massive reaction to save capitalism in a period of extreme crisis, namely a revolutionary moment or a revolution itself. Fascism rises through the smashing of workers movements – unions, cooperatives, political parties (social democratic, socialist, communist) and by extension, the smashing of any pretenses of democracy in order to save the system. This holds for Italy (in response to the Red Years), Germany (the 1918-23 German Revolution and the polarization of Germany again after 1929), and Spain and Portugal (the Spanish Revolution and Civil War). Trotsky once said that had the White Armies defeated the Red Army during the Russian Civil War of 1918-21, fascism would be a Russian word. Anyway, I don’t like harping on Trotsky because I sound like an idiot, but the guy actually predicted what would happen in Germany and nobody listened to him because Stalin had marginalized him (and eventually offed him). I could clarify, but I’m no expert.

    If you can find anything by a Marxist called Chris Bambery you’d be on your way to getting a much more fulfilling understanding of fascism than these silly check lists. I’m sure he has some talks at He also does some really interesting work on World War Two which is of course related.

    Down with checklists, up with historical materialism!

    Wow, that sounds jargon-y!

  5. 5 martinp 30 November, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Checklists at least have the advantage that they can be quickly appealled to the general public. Not every criticism can be an interpretation of historical materialism and that ‘jargony’ sound you hear is the majority of the population tuning out. In the US it is far more extreme because americans at least have more mechanisms to effect change, so if people see a list of recent decisions in front of their eyes then so much the better. The Daily Show is hardly a socialist camp but it does serve a similar purpose. No, such arguments won’t lead to an overthrowing of society, but may at least have SOME effect.

    There isn’t really a fundamental confusion between capitalism and fascism since both terms can and have been defined any which way. No government in the world has a ‘capitalist economy’ and even the world economy shows that the confusion is simply what capitalism actually means. Fascism doesn’t necessarily have to be revolutionary, just ask Noam, it can be the simple everyday operations of a government. Listen to Chomsky’s talks sometimes about US history and you’ll see that current behaviour, while more precarious, is not fundamentally different than anything that occurred before. As for societal comparisons, once again it depends on who you ask and what the criteria is. There is no question that poverty in Canada was practically non existent, even though standards of living were lower on average. However, there was much more marginalization of minorities. Post secondary education was essentially free, which meant larger numbers of canadians were more prepared.

    Yet at the same time canadians had no more political power than they do today. Read a book on Canada’s role in NATO and most conclude that peacekeeping was NEVER a main preoccupation for Canada, even though that is a prevalent myth. SOME things are better, some are worse, but as for one of the BIGGEST issues in political philosophy or socialists in general, our society is far less egalitarian. That is a central concern for socialists and democrats (those who believe in democracy as an ideal), and is the biggest issue in the world.

    As for fascism just because a government’s actions are not ‘extreme’, that doesn’t change the fact of the equation. The government of Canada still has full power over you, and can arrest you at any time and hold you incommunicado, in fact it IS doing that to some people-just because its not a LOT of people is irrelevant since a population in fear is still an oppressed population-even if it is not the state they are afraid of (go to a remembrance day ceremony and start waving an anti war sign). Until individual human rights are elevated above the state’s rights, you will have fascism. There is a modern trade off, in that many countries, like in scandinavia, the ‘system’ is set up to maximize political involvement. When people feel like they ARE ‘their government’ then the rules change a bit. The state still supercedes, but political decisions ensure that the power structure that supercedes individual rights includes those individual rights as much as possible. While every once in a blue moon some commentator or blogger will say ‘we are the government’, that borders on lunacy and is usually just a jingoistic saying that even those who spout it don’t believe. But, short of a revolution, there are still valid criticisms that can be made to at least ‘make the system better’ than previously.

  6. 6 martinp 30 November, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    I meant to say ‘during the seventies’ for the ‘societal comparisons’ above.

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