Flirting with Fascism: US Imperialism’s Hidden Romance
by Vic Perlo
This article was first published in the September 1998 issue of Political Affairs, the journal of the CP USA.
At the core of the US imperialist power structure are ruthless, amoral forces whose chauvinistic, anti-labour, racist ideology emanates from the extreme right-wing of big business. Their evil objectives and genocidal tactics have much in common with Hitler's German fascism.
Because of technological de-velopments, instantaneous world-wide communications, and growing resistance at home and abroad, the neo-fascist drive of American imperialists for world domination can be halted. Let’s analyse the situation.
American neo-fascists emerged during World War II. They regarded Germany, with which the United States was at war, as the potential ally against the world’s working class, and considered the USSR, with which we were formally allied, as the real enemy.
They achieved their greatest influence in the decade following World War II through the McCarthy persecution, prosecution and imprisonments that intimidated the nation.
The FBI forced tens of thousands of communists and other pro-gressives out of the factories and trade union leadership, weakened and diverted peace movements and imposed cultural reaction on the country.
The effects of this repressive ideology have never completely disappeared, although its mass influence is declining as witnessed by progressive changes in the trade union movement and the legalisation and growth of the Communist Party.
The role of mass media — newspapers, magazines, television, the cinemas and more and more, the Internet — must not be under-estimated.
Cruelty, violence, guns and hatred, along with vicious racist propaganda and calls for gang-like actions are spewed forth without control by richly funded far-right advocates.
Major centres of US neo-fascism include:
The most reckless, adventurous forces within the military;
The corporate profiteers from the development and manufacture of advanced weaponry, especially nuclear and other means of mass destruction;
Members of the wealthiest families, who dominate the State Department, the CIA, and space agencies, and control members of Congress;
The FBI, the national police agency with a strong reac-tionary, anti-worker, racist history.
Forces within the military
A brief look at recent history reveals the origins of the military’s support for fascist forces. Much of this support can be traced and linked to events surrounding the Second World War.
During World War II, the US military was crucial in the policy of according minimal assistance to the Soviet Union, which was almost single-handedly resisting the German juggernaut, at a terrible cost in lives and property.
Key to American military strategy was prevention of a US and British invasion of Western Europe to create a second front against Hitler so as to relieve the severe strain of the USSR and hasten considerably the end of the war.
In the effort they were aided by the German “refugees” working for the US Government in sensitive war-planning agencies who “proved” that the tremendous amount of necessary material could not possibly be transported to the European continent.
This strategy, even if not approved by the majority of key planners, was not resisted, so that the United States violated Roosevelt’s pledge to open a second front in Western Europe in 1942, and then in 1943.
The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, exerted major influence to put over this betrayal.
It was not until 1944, when the USSR had clearly gained the upper hand and was driving the Germans back, that the US Army landed in Normandy. Germany’s troop concentration was mainly confronting the advancing Soviet forces.
In retrospect it is clear that the “better late than never” second front was designed not so much to aid the USSR as to prevent the Red Army from liberating Europe, where the sentiment of the population was overtly in favour of socialism.
To prevent outright war between US-British forces and the USSR’s Red Army, the Soviet Union had to accept the Yalta Agreement, which prevented that revolutionary out-come and imposed American and British occupation of most of Germany and France.
Another result of the pact was that the United States and Britain were able to capture over a million German troops who fled westward to avoid the Soviet Army. Their future use in a potential war with the USSR was not overlooked.
And another important point: the US occupation also facilitated the recruitment of the leading German weapons scientists, especially nuclear, for the US program.
The fire this time
During the remaining months of war, the fire bombers devastated 63 Japanese cities, killing more than a million Japanese civilians.
A revealing glimpse of the fascist-like mentality of top levels in the US military can be seen in the career of General Curtis Le May, appointed in 1945 to run the air was against Japan, which had virtually no air defence left.
Key features of his career are revealed by Richard Rhodes in the New Yorker magazine of June 19, 1995: “The General and World War II.”
At a time when Japan was negotiating terms of surrender, Le May ordered the firebombing of Japanese cities.
325 US bombers dropped jellied gasoline firebomb clusters over 17 square miles of the capital, Tokyo, in the early morning of March 10, 1945. At least 100,000 were killed and hundreds of thousands injured.
The US Strategic Bombing Survey stated “probably more persons lost their lives by fire in a 6-hour period than at any time in the history of man.”
Air Force Chief Henry (Hap) Arnold telexed to Le May: “Congratulations. This mission shows your crew have the guts for anything.”
Thus the mass killing was really decided at the top levels of the US Air Force.
But Tokyo was just the start. During the remaining months of war, the fire bombers devastated 63 Japanese cities, killing more than a million Japanese civilians.
Washington had removed Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the list of victim cities, “saving” them for the first atomic bombs.
Rhodes did not mention the political implications of the nuclear bombings: they began on the very day the USSR joined the war against Japan, under agreement with and at the urging of the United States only three months earlier.
The firebombings, along with the atomic bombings, enabled the Americans to freeze out the Soviet Union from participating in deciding the terms imposed on Japan and from the occupation of Japan.
In 1949, when the USSR made its first atomic bomb, there was “panic within the US Government.”
Le May led a campaign to make the first strike against the USSR to start World War III, taking advantage of the then greater size of the US nuclear arsenal. But he found that the flight crews were too inaccurate in high-level bombing to ensure the required results, thus much training was necessary.
Le May was a fanatic in his hatred of socialism. He had a plan, approved by the Air Force, to drop 80 per cent of its stockpile in one operation, to destroy 70 Soviet cities in 30 days, to kill 2.7 million people and inflict 4 million additional casualties. Air Force strategists called this plan “killing a nation”.
Le May later said of the time: “We’d have been a hell of a lot better off if we’d got World War III started in those days.”
In the war against the People’s Republic of Korea, Le May’s proposal to use the same kind of firebombing blitz as was used against Japan was turned down. But he was authorised to use the same tactics piecemeal.
Over three years, Le May said, “we killed off about 20 per cent of the population of North Korea.”
If that’s not genocide, what is?
Subsequently, Le May directed many provocative actions designed to lure the Soviets to responses that could be used as an excuse to start a nuclear war. In vain.
According to Rhodes, it was threats from the US Government that caused Khrushchev to place the missiles in Cuba as a deterrent.
The placement of these weapons, which were capable of inflicting major damage on the United States, led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Thomas Power, a protege of Le May’s and even more fanatic than his mentor, had the practical power to start a nuclear war.
US forces were put on the highest state of alert ever.
President Kennedy claimed he won by forcing Khrushchev to withdraw the missiles.
But there was a scene at the White House when Le May charged: “We lost! We ought to go in there today and knock ’em off.”
It was a close call: any one of a number of various accidents could have touched off the holocaust for both the USSR and the US.
Because the Air Force plan to drop 750 atomic bombs on the USSR, killing millions of people, was thwarted by saner sections of the US leadership, and because of the US retreat from the Bay of Pigs, Le May regarded President Kennedy as a coward.
Reading the account about Le May increases the likelihood that the assassination of Kennedy was engineered by neo-fascist forces in the centre of US power.
Washington continues to give high priority to efforts designed to achieve decisive technological superiority over Russia in nuclear weapons despite the change in government there.
To this end, the Pentagon retains the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SLOP) for nuclear war against Russia.
These inhuman measures, actual or under development, and the readiness of powerful US forces to use them, prove the importance of the restoration of working-class power in the former USSR. This would be a forceful rein on US imperialism’s aspirations.
The United States is determined not to give up the opportunity to subjugate the former Soviet Union.
Consider the immeasurable gains US capitalists could reap from the unchecked exploitation of labour and resources in a neo-colonial territory that is the largest single entity in the world.
To gain an advantage, US “disarmament” efforts are focused on trying to accomplish the one sided reduction of Russian nuclear military power, which is still sufficient to seriously cripple the United States in retaliation for a strike against it.
Washington uses US-controlled International Monetary Fund “aid” to the bankrupt Yeltsin regime as a bargaining chip to this end.
A similar approach in the Ukraine was successful: Ukraine has dismantled the Soviet nuclear weapons on its territory and “sold” the nuclear material to the United States. In exchange, the Ukraine has become the third largest recipient of US financial aid.
There is another factor in US plans to be the unquestioned, dominant nuclear power: much reliance is given to the Lawrence Livermore Ignition Facility, under construction, and other centres for development and testing of a new class of super weapons, which can be delivered in small units, the size of bullets rather than bombs, and scattered in large numbers over vast areas.
This is, in fact, a violation of international agreements banning nuclear tests.
Washington still refuses to license any sale to Russia of equipment that might be useful for military as well as civilian purposes.
IBM was fined $8.5 million, the maximum amount under regulations on selling to Russia, for computers, installed at the Arzamas research facility and alleged to be crucial for development of this new type of super weapon.
The computer sale was not secret. In January 1997 the Russian Atomic Energy Minister told reporters about the purchase.
So why, after the long delay, did Washington decide to levy the fine?
An increase in the influence of the ideological descendants of Le May, perhaps?
At any rate, the publicity given to revelation of the sale and fine coincided with Senate approval of a 6.7 per cent rise in Pentagon spending for procurement and development of weapons.
American imperialism’s empire was founded a century ago, mainly in Latin America, with the invasion and occupation of Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico and Panama.
The Philippines was annexed then, too. US domination has since expanded throughout the hemisphere.
And there is in the United States a military installation whose function is to prepare forces for insurgency. The “School of the Americas” in Georgia is the infamous centre for training brutal mercenaries how to forcefully quell any peoples’ movement anywhere they are sent.
Wherever possible, native compradores of US imperialism are put in power and, against the interests of their own people, facilitate the takeover of national resources by US corporations, the exploitation of their workers and farmers, and the suppression of growing national liberation struggles.
Currently about 200 American protesters are serving six month sentences in US prisons for demonstrating against this fiendish base.
Wherever local forces cannot be reliably counted on, the US military intervenes directly — in Grenada 15 years ago; currently in several South American countries — using the excuse of “fighting drugs”.
For example, the national liberation movement in Columbia basically controls the southern half of the country.
US Air Force planes on “anti-drug training missions” fly over the country at will. When two American pilots crashed in July, there was fevered reaction on Capitol Hill and in the media.
Another example: Washington, even now, is plotting to violate its agreement to remove US troops from Panama; and despite national resistance, there are still major military bases in the Philippines.
In fact, US incursions are occurring, threatened, or have recently taken place in most regions of the world outside major capital centres.
The largest-scale action currently is in Eastern Europe where NATO expansion, directed ultimately at the former USSR, has already established an American military base in Hungary, and an invasion force of some 50,000 NATO troops in Bosnia.
As this is being written, plans are being perfected for a US invasion of Yugoslavia.
And don’t forget the continuing US military presence in the Mid-East, especially in Iraq.
The global span of US military intervention is indicated not only by its bases in 70 countries, but also by its conduct of “training exercises” with armies in 102 countries.
During the last several years, the US military budget has resumed its increase, especially in the procurement and development of more advanced weapons and space-related items
Profits and profit margins have been rising, doubling since 1995. And military business has been second to none in the merger rush which has resulted in concentration of production far beyond anything previously known.
Just three companies — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon now control about three quarters of the military business.
Further mergers into the Big Three may bring their share up as high as 90 per cent and, unlike the situation faced by the automotive Big Three, there is no significant Japanese or major European competition.
The major financial institutions of Wall Street have heavy stakes in the military business, as do new power centres.
FMR Corporation, the holding company of the Fidelity Group of mutual funds — the largest in the world, with over $400 billion in assets — has the most widespread military equipment holdings, including 6.7 per cent of Lockheed Martin, 10.2 per cent of General Dynamics, 22.8 per cent of Litton Industries and 6.1 per cent of Northrop Grumman.
The last three named are significant factors outside the Big Three. But Lockheed Martin is anxious to take over Northrop Grumman.
The major and controlling owner of FMR Corporations is the Fitzgerald family of Boston, which has ties to the Boston financial group and has, in fact, become a new centre of financial power.
Chase Manhattan Bank, the traditional stronghold of the Rockefeller family, is for the moment the largest US bank in assets. It owns 5.2 per cent of Boeing.
Then there is Berkshire Hathaway, which owns 6.3 per cent of General Dynamics.
Warren Buffett, the largest and controlling owner of Berkshire Hathaway — over 40 per cent of the stock — is the second richest man in the world ($36 billion vs. Bill Gates’ $48 billion). The two are good friends.
Bill Gates’ Microsoft also has a major stake in the military through the supply of software for the advanced computers used for special purposes by the armed forces.
In recent mergers, Boeing took over McDonnell Douglas, so its military business now exceeds its huge civilian contracts.
Raytheon took over the military business of General Motors’ Hughes Aircraft under terms giving GM’s shareholders a special 30 per cent stake in Raytheon, with controlling powers over the company.
General Motors was the largest arms contractor during World War II when the Du Pont family was the largest holder of GM stock. But the Du Ponts have sold their major direct holdings in GM.
The Morgan group, historically GM’s leading organiser of financing, retains influence on the company, along with Detroit financial interests.
We do not know which of these groups and billionaire owners support fascist tendencies. What we do know, however, is that in addition to their substantial involvement in military contracts, in most cases they derive the major share of their profits from foreign sources, and they all look abroad for their further expansion.
This is certainly the perspective of Gates and Buffell, as expressed in their joint interview in Fortune (July 20, 1998). This does not imply that these men personally have neo-fascist ideology.
Wealth and government
The personnel entrenched in the State Department and the CIA represent the political core and administrative brains of the ruling families and centres of finance capital.
They exercise power beyond the bounds of formal bourgeois democracy, without elections or other means of public choice or review, without the checks and balances of the trilateral government structure.
The control centres have aggrandised importance as the foreign investments of the leading monopoly corporations have attained priority.
An example of the importance attached to foreign investment can be seen from Buffett and Gates. Fortune heads a section of its interview them: The World Is Our Oyster.
We don’t take our businesses global directly. Our two largest commitments are Coke and Gillette. Coke has 80 per cent in earnings coming from abroad, and Gillette has two-thirds of its earnings coming from abroad. We go global by piggybacking on them. I can sit in Omaha and let Doug Ivester (CEO of Coca-Cola) fly all over the world.
Gates echoed these views:
Our business is truly global. The PC standard is a global standard ... In fact, our market share is much higher outside the US than it is inside ... Since most of our competitors are from the US and aren’t as good at doing international business, we thrive even better in these other countries ... Most of our growth will come from outside the US.
The global dominance of Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Gillette is only partly due to their qualitative technical and economic advantages.
The power of US imperialism, exercised by the military and, on the civilian side, through the State Department and CIA, blasts away all protectionist measures of other governments for national products, or limitations of Coca-Cola’s ability to blanket the world with its advertising propaganda.
Under the formal umbrella of the United Nations, US and British imperialism and their NATO allies have established a tribunal in The Hague with global jurisdiction.
It uses its military forces, mainly US and British, to arrest those accused of human rights violations, genocide and related crimes.
Such charges by the imperialist powers should not be accepted. Accusations of violations are made very selectively, against personalities prominent in regimes under imperialist assault.
Most victims in the recent period have been Serbians, political leaders in Bosnia.
Charges of atrocities on the part of both sides were made during the fighting in Bosnia. But the United States arrested Serbian leaders and not the leaders of the Muslim-Croatian alliance.
No action is taken against proven killers like Suharto of Indonesia.
Also relevant is that US charges of terrorism against nations it has targeted cannot be accepted when America itself is guilty of terrorism, most overtly against Cuba and Iraq.
While socialist and socialist-orientated states are the main targets of US aggression, there are others.
Most conspicuous is the continuing offensive against Iraq, which includes aerial occupation of most of the country, prohibition against international air transport, and crippling economic embargoes.
In the case of Iraq, the US is almost completely isolated internationally in its sanctions.
Iraqi progressives aim to replace the repressive dictatorship with a popular democratic regime. This is the responsibility of the Iraqi people, without outside interference.
Through the State Department and other agencies utilised to carry out foreign policy decisions (e.g. Treasury and Commerce Departments) as well as the covert actions of the CIA, US imperialism helps its “friends” and attacks its “enemies”.
Israel is a prime example of a friend. It operates as a mini-imperialist power in the Middle East, aggressive and brutal towards subject peoples, such as Palestinians and inhabitants of Lebanon.
Israel now receives the highest per capita aid from the United States of any country.
The ruling class continues to mount military and economic outrages.
According to Wall Street Journal reporter David Rogers: “The Clinton administration is seeking broad new authority from Congress to plan and mount covert operations against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.” (July 17, 1999)
State, Pentagon and CIA are jointly projecting a “ ... combined overt-covert strategy to weaken and potentially oust the Iraqi leader”.
Actually, preparations for the expanded campaign against Iraq are already underway, and scheduled to be completed while Clinton is still in office.
It is to be on a much larger scale than earlier efforts started under Bush, which Iraq smashed, killing or imprisoning hundreds of CIA agents.
The desire to get formal Congressional approval is solely to provide a constitutional figleaf. Opposition, mainly by Democrats in Congress, is holding up funding legislation for Clinton’s Mid-East agenda.
But with or without the figleaf, it is obvious that the government hawks hope to proceed with an all out offensive against Iraq.
Attack on Cuba
Fully as critical is the long US imperialist campaign to destroy the Cuban socialist regime.
In addition to sanctions, the US conducts terrorist acts, such as large-scale crop poisoning, massive airplane drops of anti-Castro propaganda leaflets, and innu-merable attempts to assassinate President Castro.
Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, providing sanctions against countries having economic relations with Cuba. Universally defied, this measure has backfired, forcing Clinton to defer enforcement of Helms-Burton.
US actions against Cuba are opposed, at least formally, by most countries. Particularly important, the entire Western Hemisphere has welcomed Cuba.
In 1983, using the presence of Cuban construction workers as an excuse, the US ousted the progressive government of Grenada and occupied the island. Now Grenada has welcomed Castro as an honoured guest.
In an important editorial article in Barron’s, researcher Philip Peters wrote:
Cuba’s economy has defied all odds. It survived the loss of the Soviet subsidy ... It is merely bruised by the American embargo and the measures adopted in the ’90s to strengthen its effect.
Today, Cuba is no economic paradise ... But the Cuban economy is growing, at a rate of 7.8 per cent in 1996 and 2.5 per cent in 1997 ... traffic jams and construction projects have brought some bustle back to Havana. All the things that were supposed to drive the Castro Government from power have failed.
Increases in tourism and foreign investment have helped, as have limited openings for small and individual private enterprises, but foreign investors must make joint ventures with state entities. Cuba does not permit devolution of decision-making to a private sector.
Peters calls for considerably more far-reaching measures: “Cuba’s bishops and dissidents reject current US policy as cruel, inhumane and an affront to their solidarity. Hundreds of conversations in Cuba have never turned up a single Cuban who wants the country’s economy to deteriorate, or who expects economic hardship to bring political change ... As that government prepares to celebrate 40 years in power, Americans might summon the confidence that many Cubans show in us.”
Undoubtedly the merits of Cuba’s socialist system have been decisive in enabling Cuba to survive the prolonged US offensive and begin to advance despite it.
It was the socialist system in the USSR that enabled that country to defeat and destroy the fascist invaders.
US imperialism, overestimating the extent of its economic and financial superiority, has turned to unilateral economic sanctions as a means of imposing its will on targeted countries.
According to one source:
We now rely so heavily on unilateral sanctions that more than half of the sanctions imposed by the US in the last 80 years were added in the last four years ...
The President’s Export Council estimated the direct cost of economic sanctions to the US economy in 1995 at $15 to $19 billion in lost export sales and a loss of up to 250,000 jobs.
(ARCO Cap, published by the Atlantic Richfield Corp.)
Sanctions have increasingly failed. During the 1980s less than 10 per cent had their intended effect.
Literally, all the US sanctions in effect have been imposed on 26 “developing countries” — that is, they are instruments of neo-colonial oppression and plunder.
Sanctions have not, of course, been levied directly against imperialist rivals, which have the economic power to take reprisals.
While important, sanctions are only one of the tools used to gain the objectives of the invisible power brokers running the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon.
This offensive is decidedly racist, most of the targets being African and Asian peoples. With the rising literacy and educational skills, the super profits from investments in these countries have multiplied.
State intervention to assist TNCs
Along with sanctions are government actions to assist TNCs plunder of these countries.
For example, the settlement of the General Motors strike required the company to keep two specified plants open for one-and-a-half years, but it did little to curtail the remorseless shift of production operations to foreign facilities.
GM production in Mexico has multiplied several times in the recent period and now accounts for 20 per cent of its output, which is still expanding.
To receive desperately needed financial aid, political pressure from Washington has impelled the privatisation of Mexican enterprises and the end to restrictions on foreign ownership
US economic pressure has also forced major currency devaluations that leave real wages in the auto industry at one-tenth the US level at a comparable level of productivity.
In its international alliances, the United States has gradually been shifting the status of number-one ally from Britain to Germany, which decisively exceeds all other European power in economic strength.
Also, its relative financial influence has benefited from Japan’s financial crisis.
The ending of barriers to cross-border personal movements, and the impending adoption of a common European currency, greatly enhances Europe as a field for trade and investment.
Germany, to a considerable extent, emerges as the leading country in these steps of unification.
With the increase in power of German imperialism, fascist tendencies have revived and proliferated. The far right German People’s Union Party captured 13 per cent of the vote in a recent state election.
It has made inroads especially in the former German Democratic Republic, where joblessness afflicts 19 per cent of the workers.
The rise of fascist sentiment is associated with the high level of unemployment, nearly ten per cent.
While the German Government “monitors” far-right groups, their rallies and marches are legal. Africans, many of whom work in Germany, have been the major victims of the 1,608 racially motivated crimes counted last year.