Based on case stories by Jennifer Harbury…
I remember the slogan during Vietnam anti-war protests, “Fascism is imperialism turned inwards.” We took that to mean that once we had forced an end to the war (along with the North Vietnamese), the ruling class would turn on U.S. workers for exploitation and profit instead of relatively privileging them.
We now know that it is entirely possible to have both fascism and imperialism at the same time. The slogan was probably based on Lenin’s definition of both imperialism and fascism as embodied in “decaying capitalism.” We also had the illusion that capitalism would collapse in on itself (perhaps as early as 1974) giving us the opportunity to build a better world.
We posed the question to Jennifer Harbury: “What is going on with our government — political opportunism, nativism, or fascism?” Jennifer’s response draws on her family history, refugees from the Netherlands where 70% of the Jewish population was killed during the Holocaust. This webcast concludes the series.
Aimé Césaire from French Martinique wrote in 1955 in his Discourse on Civilization
Each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread…
…the gestapos are busy, the prisons fill up, the torturers around the racks invent, refine, discuss.
People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: “How strange! But never mind — it’s Nazism, it will pass!”
And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves… that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.
We are, without question, in this together. Social change takes place when masses of exploited and oppressed people rise up in solidarity. That remains both possible and necessary, but only with organization, imagination, passion, intellect, culture, and morality. Our relationship with the refugees who petition for asylum at our border and our relationship with the countries where they originate will determine our own future.
Jennifer Harbury is a lawyer and human rights activist.
[Anne Lewis is a documentary filmmaker whose films include On Our Own Land (DuPont-Columbia award), Fast Food Women (POV), Justice in the Coalfields (Gold Plaque, Intercom), and Morristown: in the air and sun about factory job loss and the rights of immigrants. Her latest film A Strike and an Uprising (in Texas) looks at the pecan shellers’ strike in San Antonio in the ’30s and the union uprising in Nacogdoches in the late ’80s (audience award, Hecho en Tejas, Cine Las Americas) She serves on the executive board of the Texas State Employees Union TSEU-CWA 6186 and teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.]
- Read more by and about Anne Lewis on The Rag Blog.