American Fascism: A prior question to the AUKUS arrangements

Mar 27, 2023
Wide angle view of the plaza area of the U.S. Capitol East Front Facade in Sepia tone.

The criticisms of the AUKUS arrangements announced by the government are entirely warranted, as is the outrage that has accompanied them, but, strangely, they miss a point which should have preceded them. And that has to do with the political complexion of the United States itself; in brief, it faces the world as a troubled and corrupt actor, neither united as a nation, nor even as a state.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is to the point. In 1938 he provided this warning:

“if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.”

It has proved to be prescient as the emergence of Donald Trump, Ron De Santis, and the insurrection of January 6, 2021, have underlined. They represent undemocratic toxicity in the bowels of American politics; moreover, they are but the further development of longstanding authoritarian trends in US politics which the Western alliance in general, and Australia in particular, have chosen to ignore.

For the most part this is not considered a topic for polite conversation amongst the mainstream political media and academic communities. But it should be. For them, any notion of fascism is over-determined by sloppy comparisons with the fascisms of Italy and Nazi Germany. This results in a denial of what exists in plain sight.

What is more troubling is that the silence has been reinforced by the parroting and fervent embrace of the myth that we – Australia – are remarkably alike and therefore somehow related, almost family.

The proposition is that this is the outcome of a common language and historical development; more, that it has cascaded into congruent cultural values, national goals and even destiny.

Nothing could be further from reality. Worse unlike many myths which are relative harmless forms of consolation this one was always, and continues to be propagated for political, strategic, and commercial ends which ultimately are actual threats to Australian national security and identity.

An immediate question comes to mind is this: where are the ostensibly fearless, mainstream Australian intellectuals, journalists, political scientists who derive their status from being the independent critics and commentators essential to any regime claiming to be a functioning democracy. To continue, why is it that, in the face of evidence to the contrary, they seek only to immortalise the alliance?

And why do they go so far as to denigrate those who have committed themselves to the very professional obligations they themselves have abandoned?

Surely the growing body of evidence, analysis, and commentary since (say) 9/11 on the drift to a specifically American form of fascism is unavoidable. They are many, rigorous, and growing, and they do not rely on the advent of Donald Trump; rather, they approach the subject from many perspectives to reveal a consistent and chronic pathology.

Crucially, those producing these accounts, and from within the United States, are drawn from academia, the critical media, public intellectuals, and the traditional conservative wing of US political parties, including the Republican Party. All display an awareness of conditions in the US which, unaddressed, make the emergence of a distinctly American fascism almost inevitable.

While this is a tragedy for the US, it is surely unacceptable for the Australian government to surrender even more of its sovereignty to such a power.

Equally, assuming that the AUKUS arrangements are based on the advice being provided by the relevant government agencies and think tanks, the conclusion is that they ought, collectively, to be charged with dereliction of duty.

They have, for example, absented themselves from any consideration and understanding of the essential, or eternal elements of fascism – what Umberto Eco, in his seminal essay of the mid-1990s defined as Ur Fascism.

Then, too, in the post 9/11 politics of the US, Eco has been joined by those constantly mindful of the corruption of the American body politic: by way of an indicative list, Henry Giroux, Chris Hedges, and Naomi Wolf.

What they catalogue is a litany of fascist features which, inter alia, include: violence against dissent and those defined as the Other, the co-option of sympathetic religious authoritarian and extreme nationalist, anti-secularism, the politicisation of the judiciary, racism, machismo, militarism and militarisation, and measures against women’s choice.

And all of this while simultaneously exalting the US as the one and only possible hegemon in world politics.

Not even a shadow of this is cast on the AUKUS arrangements. The questions which flow from this absence indicate a national identity so close to the US that, like so many comparisons, is a curse.

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