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Don’t worry about Trump and proto-fascism in the U.S.

By: | November 14, 2016

Worry about what’s happening in N.L. and in Canada.

Jon Parsons
Power and Dissent offers a critical take on culture, society and politics in Newfoundland and Labrador

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U.S. President Elect Donald Trump. Photo by Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons.

Over the last couple years, I purposely avoided making any comment on the presidential campaign in the United States. I didn’t ever mention it in a column or on social media or in any public forum. I mention it here only as a point of reference, and actually the reason I generally don’t comment on what is happening in the U.S. is what I want to talk about today.

The simple fact is, none of us can do very much about U.S. politics. Of course, we are still subject to the consequences of its monstrosity – that is not confined by borders – and in many ways we are all subject to the global Empire in which the U.S. plays a leading role.

I am not suggesting there is no value in being informed and talking about these things, but we are much more directly responsible for and capable of intervening in our own politics, a politics that many consent to through participation in voting for representative governments or simply through silent passivity.

Enough monstrosity is seeded within our own politics that similar forms of proto-fascism are coming to the surface as is now happening in the U.S., and so there is no need to point the finger anywhere else.

The way to support anti-fascist internationalism and to have an impact on politics abroad, in my opinion, is to begin in our own communities and to build outwards.

For years I’ve been speaking about the history and re-emergence of fascistic tendencies in N.L. I’ve written it in columns and academic papers, spoken about it in public forums, and organized demonstrations of resistance whenever such tendencies arise. Most people, upon hearing about the history, simply cannot believe there was anything like fascism in N.L., which is perfectly understandable because it is mostly excluded from the history books and even historians tend to minimize the issue.

But it was there in the 1930s and it was championed by politicians and newspaper editors and even labour leaders. With the collapse of responsible government and the introduction of the Commission, the seeds of fascism blossomed into fully-fledged authoritarianism, complete with a secret police and a vast network of informants.

In recent years, some of the concerns about a resurgent fascism in N.L. and more broadly in Canada are the expansion of the security and surveillance apparatus, such as through the odious Bill C-51; the Islamophobia and bigotry that grew as a reaction to our country’s commitment to settle even a small number of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war; there are also the enduring and underlying forms of racism, sexism, and colonialism; the police forces operating in N.L., the RNC and the RCMP, have at times displayed a tendency toward militarization and a willingness to subvert constitutionally guaranteed rights; and there are serious concerns about the integrity of N.L.’s representative democracy.

Fascism exists and grows because it is not resisted at each and every step it takes.

Added to all this, there is a recently formed N.L. chapter of the Soldiers of Odin, a racist anti-immigrant group, and there has been for many years a notorious neo-Nazi in N.L. social media. Along with spewing a constant stream of hate and racism on Twitter, his neo-Nazi website posted pictures of myself and other organizers and activists from N.L. with phrases like “remember to hold them accountable when the time comes.”

Knowing our history and having something of a snapshot of the current context of politics and public discourse in N.L., I am somewhat incredulous at the incredulity so many are expressing at what is happening in the United States. I’ve been watching pundits and commentators falling all over themselves trying to explain the rise of fascism there, as though it is some great mystery and as though a similar process of disembowelling the possibility of democratic politics and social justice isn’t happening in our own communities.

The thing is, there is no mystery to it. It is really the simplest of things.

Fascism exists and grows because it is not resisted at each and every step it takes. It exists and grows because the social, economic, and political conditions for it to flourish are allowed to persist. There is nothing necessary or inevitable about the rise of fascism, but to hold it at bay requires us to address the many inequalities and injustices that are the ground from which it springs.

The first step for many people will have to be to admit there is a problem, to admit that what we are seeing in the U.S. is actually just a symptom of a disease that festers within our politics too.

Jon Parsons is a writer and researcher whose work focuses on cultures of resistance. Catch up with him on Twitter @jwpnfld

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